‘What’s there to hide’: Why snooping is not a big deal in India

Pegasus was allegedly used in India to spy on opposition politicians, bureaucrats and journalists, among others. Illustration: Eunice Dhivya

Anand and Anjali Sen (names changed) were mostly indifferent to their daughter’s requests for ‘privacy’. They would often barge into her room without knocking, or snoop into her phone when she was not looking. If caught doing so, their common refrain was: “Why are you scared if you have nothing to hide?”

Many Indians pushed the same argument as Anand and Anjali when the Pegasus spyware row exploded last month. Only this time, it wasn’t some paranoid couple eavesdropping on their teenage child.

Pegasus, a private Israeli spyware that has been classified as a weapon to be used against criminals and terrorists, was allegedly used in India to spy on opposition politicians, bureaucrats and journalists, among others. While the Indian government has denied the charges, it called the revelations a ‘non-issue’. Interestingly, the NSO Group insists that the spyware is sold only to “vetted governments” and not private entities.

The latest ‘snooping saga’ first came to the light in May 2019 when WhatApp made a stunning revelation that Pegasus was used to target about 1,400 of its users from 20 countries, including India. But at that time the issue failed to hog headlines.

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