Lekhi also commented on the Pegasus spyware controversy, which has caused an uproar in Parliament as the spyware was reportedly used to monitor Indian journalists, activists and politicians.
The parliamentary joint committee on the personal data protection bill presented its report to the spokesman for Lok Sabha, chairman of the committee, Meenakshi Lekhi, while accusing Congress of disrupting parliamentary processes over the controversy surrounding the Pegasus spyware attacks . This paves the way for the introduction of the law on the protection of personal data in parliament.
“There is the Joint Committee on Personal Data, and this mandate was given to me by the spokesman. All members of the opposition worked transparently (in the committee). The report was ready, but various things like coronavirus, elections and cabinet reshuffle delayed its adoption. Now it has been presented to the spokesman, ”said Lekhi, a New Delhi MP, speaking at a Bharatiya Janata Party press conference on Thursday. She added that the spokesman must appoint someone to “oversee his adoption.”
Why it matters: Since the Puttaswamy ruling in 2017 at the Supreme Court of India, the government has been obliged to pass a law to protect the personal data of Indians. Steps like a data protection regulator, data localization requirements, and other aspects of the bill have been closely monitored by the industry for years. Even if there is uncertainty about the current contours of the bill, data breaches continue to be reported regularly, with companies having little to no consequences for such incidents.
“The Indian government takes data protection seriously and data protection is becoming the law of the country. And that (disturbances in parliament) is directly related to that, ”said Lekhi. Previously, prior to the start of the ongoing monsoon session, Lok Sabha spokesman Om Birla said that the GPA would not receive an extension of the deadline to submit its report. “Most of the committee’s work is done. Now a new chairman has to be nominated. I hope this does not affect the filing of the report. There will be no more time, ”Birla allegedly said.
Recently, due to the cabinet reshuffle, five members of the GPA became ministers – Meenakashi Lekhi, Ajay Bhatt, Bhupender Yadav, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Lekhi was the chairman of the committee, so a replacement needs to be appointed. In addition to the already vacant seat on the committee, these seats of these members in the GPA are now also empty.
Pegasus is fake news: Lekhi
Lekhi’s comments on Pegasus were made in relation to the ongoing chaos in Parliament following reports that the Israeli NSO group’s Pegasus spyware was used to monitor numerous Indian journalists, activists and politicians. Reports from The cable and several other partner media organizations said the NSO Group had shortlisted Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi and new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw as potential targets for surveillance, aside from confirming that phones were being used by figures such as electoral strategist Prashant Kishor the same ones were infected.
“The fact is, this story circulating about Pegasus is a fake story. The fact is also that Amnesty has denied that the list in circulation is not an actual list, but merely suggests something, ”Lekhi said, while criticizing Congress and Trinamool Congress for using parliamentary procedures on the same matter bothered. She described the reports on the Pegasus Project as “made up, made up, without evidence”.
Lekhi was referring to a statement Amnesty gave to a Hebrew broadcaster, which was translated into English by cyber journalist Kim Zetter. According to Zetter, Amnesty reportedly said that the list of leaked numbers were “numbers marked of interest to NSO customers,” and that this meant that the “list is not specifically a list of people who were spied on ”.
Amnesty says it never claimed the list was NSO: “Amnesty International never presented this list as the ‘NSO Pegasus Spyware List’, although some of the global media may have. A list indicates the interests of the company’s customers . ” https://t.co/51U72HI9yF
h / t @ersincmt
– Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) July 21, 2021
These comments on Twitter were quickly picked up by media organizations, including Indian media houses, which headlined stories “Amnesty says that leaked phone numbers were never alleged to be from the NSO Pegasus Spyware List..
As those statements boiled over, Amnesty International said on Thursday Abend issued a statement stating that she “stands categorically by the results of the Pegasus project” in response to “false allegations on social media and inaccurate media reports related to the project”.
The statement said: “Amnesty International is categorically committed to the results of the Pegasus project and that the data are irrefutably linked to potential targets for the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. The false rumors that are being spread on social media are meant to detract from the widespread illegal attack controls on journalists, activists and others that the Pegasus Project has revealed. “
Zetter also issued a clarification –
To my new followers from India who misinterpreted my tweets – the Amnesty statement does not mean the stories are a joke and no one has been spied on. There is evidence that some of the people on the list were spied while using Pegasus. The only question is, were all 50,000 spied on?
– Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) July 22, 2021
Lekhi did not mention Amnesty International’s clarification in their half-hour press conference.
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