Responding to allegations over breach of privacy of several Indian users on WhatsApp using Israeli surveillance software Pegasus, the Facebook-owned messaging company on Friday stated that it they had informed the relevant Indian goverment authorities about the nature of breach in May while adding that the company's highest priority is "privacy and security of users."
In a statement, WhatsApp said, "Our highest priority is the privacy and security of WhatsApp users. In May, we quickly resolved a security issue and notified relevant Indian and international government authorities. Since then we've worked to identify targeted users to ask the courts to hold the international spyware firm known as the NSO Group accountable."
"We agree with the Government of India that it's critical that together we do all we can to protect users from hackers attempting to weaken security. WhatsApp remains committed to the protection of all user messages through the product we provide," the company said.
Government sources, however, say that WhatsApp had given information to CERT-IN, a government agency in May, but without any mention of Pegasus or the extent of the breach. It also insists, that the information shared was only about a technical vulnerability and had nothing to do with the fact that privacy of Indian users had been compromised.
The response from WhatsApp has come after Union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday sought a detailed explanation from the messaging platform regarding the breach of privacy of citizens of India.
"We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens," he tweeted.
According to reports, WhatsApp revealed that journalists and activists in India have been the target of surveillance by operators using the Israeli spyware Pegasus.
The messaging platform said that it had reached out to the people who were targetted but declined to reveal the identities and "exact number" of those who were targeted.
(Inputs from agencies)