The Pegasus spyware scandal has shocked the entire world and raised questions
about democratic institutions, the right to privacy, and the freedom of the
press and speech. Without the user's knowledge or consent, the Pegasus malware
is a potent tool that can access a person's phone and steal all of their
information and communications. The spyware was produced by the Israeli
cybersecurity company NSO Group, which also sells it to international
governments and law enforcement organizations.
One of the nations where the Pegasus spyware is said to have been deployed is
India. Some 300 Indians, including journalists, activists, politicians, and
government officials, were reportedly potential targets of the malware in July
2021. Widespread indignation and demands for stronger privacy protection in
India have resulted from this. This essay will look at how India's right to
privacy has been affected by the Pegasus spyware controversy and what has to be
done to protect it.
The Right to Privacy in India
The Indian Constitution upholds the fundamental right to privacy as one of the
country's basic rights. The Supreme Court of India declared the right to privacy
to be a fundamental constitutional right in its landmark Puttaswamy v. Union of
decision in 2017. According to the court, Article 21 of the Constitution's
guarantee of the right to life and personal freedom includes the right to
privacy as an essential component. The court also acknowledged that the right to
privacy is not a given and may be limited in certain situations, such as those
involving public safety and national security.
The Indian government has received criticism for its lack of attempts to uphold
this right, despite the Supreme Court's recognition of it as a basic right. The
government has been charged with violating people's right to privacy multiple
times, including the Aadhaar data leak, the WhatsApp spying incident, and the
current Pegasus spyware crisis.
Effect of the Pegasus Spyware Scandal on India's Right to Privacy:
Concerns regarding India's right to privacy have been greatly exacerbated by the
Pegasus spyware incident. Without the owner's knowledge or approval, spyware is
capable of infecting a person's phone and removing all of its data and
communications. Personal messages, call history, and even geographical
information are included in this. The phone's camera and microphone can also be
turned on by the spyware in order to capture the user's surroundings.
There are significant worries about the abuse of power and the infringement of
the right to privacy in light of the allegations that the Indian government
utilised the Pegasus spyware to target journalists, activists, politicians, and
government employees. The use of spyware to target those who oppose the
government raises concerns about the commitment of the administration to
democratic principles and press and speech freedom.
The Pegasus spyware incident has also brought attention to the need for India to
enact stricter data protection regulations. The 2019 Personal Data Protection
Bill, which is still pending in Parliament, proposes to control how businesses
and governmental organizations gather, store, and use personal data. The bill
has drawn criticism for its lack of strength and effectiveness in defending the
right to privacy. The measure allows the government to exclude its agencies from
the bill's requirements and does not establish a powerful data protection
Concerns regarding the function of technology corporations in preserving the
right to privacy have also been sparked by the Pegasus spyware incident. The
maker of the spyware, the NSO Group, has come under fire for selling it to
governments and law enforcement organizations without the necessary safeguards
and monitoring. The business has been charged with breaking international law
and supporting violations of human rights.
Measures to Protect India's Right to Privacy:
The Following Measures Can Be Taken To Protect The Right To Privacy In India:
- Improve the legal structure:
By passing a thorough data protection law, the Indian government can strengthen the legal environment for privacy protections. The parliament is now debating the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which needs to be accelerated and enacted into law as soon as feasible.
- Enhance enforcement methods:
The government should make privacy violations more difficult to ignore. Establishing an impartial data protection authority that can look into complaints and impose fines for privacy infractions will help achieve this.
- Improve transparency:
The government should make its surveillance practices more transparent. The legal justification for surveillance as well as the volume of requests for surveillance should be made public.
- Strengthen cybersecurity:
To prevent hacking efforts and strengthen cybersecurity, the government should work. By making investments in cybersecurity infrastructure, enhancing training and awareness initiatives, and fostering more cooperation between public and private organizations, this can be accomplished.
- Promote digital literacy:
The government needs to educate the populace about digital literacy. People may be better able to defend their privacy if they are aware of how their data is being collected, used, and safeguarded.
- Intensify international collaboration:
The Indian government has to collaborate with other nations to create global norms for privacy protection. The consistency of privacy regulations across countries and the accountability of multinational corporations for privacy violations can both be improved as a result.
In conclusion, the Pegasus spyware incident has drawn attention to the necessity
of more stringent data security regulations and openness regarding Indian
government monitoring procedures. Although the proposed Personal Data Protection
Bill is a start in the right direction, it needs to be enhanced to guarantee
that any type of unauthorized surveillance and data collecting does not violate
people's right to privacy. India will only be able to guarantee that it is
respecting the values of democracy and individual freedom after that.
Written By: Kshitiz Kumar,
Shri Jainarayan Mishra P.G. College (University of Lucknow)