The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology will be holding a meeting on July 28 to discuss the recent revelations made in the Pegasus Project. In a notice uploaded on the Lok Sabha website, the Committee released a revised programme of the next sittings of the Standing Committee, which is headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. This comes on the heels of the investigation published by a consortium of 16 global media outlets that around 1,000 Indian phone numbers could have been identified as potential targets for the Israeli spyware Pegasus.
The notice said that the Committee will sit at 4 pm on July 28 and the agenda has been listed as ‚ÄúEvidence of the representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Communications (Department of Telecommunications) on the subject ‚ÄėCitizens‚Äô data security and privacy‚Äô.‚ÄĚ
While the Committee is headed by Shashi Tharoor, other MPs on the Committee include Karti Chidambaram, Tejasvi Surya, Sumalatha Ambareesh, Sunny Deol, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Mahua Moitra and others from the Lok Sabha and MPs like Anil Agrawal, Subhash Chandra and Shaktisinh Gohil from the Rajya Sabha.
Shashi Tharoor spoke to TNM on Tuesday in light of the new revelations on Pegasus, and said, ‚ÄúThe agenda item is still alive and the matter can be pursued further.‚ÄĚ
The Parliamentary Committee had earlier met in 2019 to discuss the Pegasus issue, shortly after a similar instance of alleged snooping via the spyware had surfaced, when the phones of those accused in the Bhima Koregaon case appeared to have been targeted. At the time, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology, had taken cognisance of the issue. According to the Lok Sabha website, the last sitting that the Committee had on the issue was on December 21, 2019.
Shashi Tharoor tweeted on Wednesday morning that to date, three hearings have been held by the Committee on the Pegasus issue in the year 2019.
‚ÄúThree hearings were held on #pegasus in 2019. The Committee heard representatives of hacking victims, & Secretaries of IT, Telecoms & MHA. This was part of two broader subjects, "Citizens' Data Privacy & Security" & "Cyber Security", on which discussions are continuing,‚ÄĚ Tharoor tweeted.
The Union government has dismissed reports, suspecting the timing of their release (Ministers have asked why the reports were released a day before the Monsoon Session of Parliament) and calling them an attempt to malign Indian democracy.
Now, the source of the leak and how it was authenticated has not been disclosed. While a phone number's presence in the data does not mean an attempt was made to hack a device, the consortium said it believed the data indicated potential targets of NSO's government clients. The Wire reported that the Indian phone numbers found in the database include 40 journalists, three major opposition figures, one constitutional authority, two serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organisations, and scores of businesspersons, as well as a sitting judge.