Latest technologies and sophisticated applications are meant to add comfort to our lives. There is no denying the fact that right from transferring money from bank accounts to ordering grocery items—everything is now centred around just a touch of the phone. We thoroughly enjoy this comfort and have become almost dependent on such applications. One of the most popular applications that finds a place in almost every smartphone user’s device is WhatsApp, a highly user-friendly instant chat messaging application, which has become an integral part of our regular life.
However, if we come to know that through these apps, our privacy can be hacked completely, what would be our reaction? A sensational incident in this line has taken place whereby WhatsApp has revealed that the messaging app was used to spy on at least two dozen Indian journalists and human rights activists earlier this year. Also, in their submission, WhatsApp lawyers have maintained that some prominent figures like Bela Bhatia, Anand Teltumbde, Shalini Gera are among the Indians who were snooped on using Israeli spyware Pegasus, developed by an Israeli firm.
Most of us must be thinking about why should it be a concern for us—the common people? If we are clean and not famous, then there’s no way this is going to affect us. So, for all those, it is crucial to understand that most of us who are active on any social media platforms would not only face an intrusion into our personal space but also, this will readily turn the entire country into a ‘Surveillance State’—because spies can deploy the malware on a cellphone by getting the user to click on an “exploit link”, or even through a missed WhatsApp video call. They can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to capture activity in its vicinity, according to the report.
WhatsApp claimed that the smartphones were penetrated through missed calls alone. So apparently, this can be implemented on any WhatsApp user instantly, using the Pegasus. As a citizen of the digital era, one can become a soft target easily to such spying, which could reveal their entire personal details. Details like opinions, preferences, personal information such as a home address, bank details, etc.—all can be obtained from just with a click.
So what are the next precautionary steps that we can take? Should we uninstall WhatsApp? Well, that will not change anything as the spyware can be used on other applications as well. Right from contacts to how one looks like can be determined easily. Also, it is clear from this case that Pegasus has been used to violate basic norms of privacy, and surprisingly, in India, the targets have been social workers and activists.
If spying has to be done, then why choose those who voice their opinion for the public good? Why not put people who are actually a threat to society under surveillance? Isn’t this a clear indication that those who have the upper hand in criticising the government have been made vulnerable victims? So besides the right to privacy, the right to dissent in a democracy is also on the verge of complete suppression by the government. And if you think that those who are apolitical would be spared easily, it would be wrong because we are still unaware of whether our own phones have been hacked or not, yet.
Statements like “if we are clean, then why are we afraid?”, has no validity at all. This entire matter raises a critical question: how detrimental can advanced technologies be? It seems the education and skills are more likely to be misused than being implemented adequately for the better! To me, this looks so much like a dead-end, wherein, we are clueless and cannot do anything to stop our important details from getting leaked. This will not come as a surprise if we see money getting robbed from bank accounts someday or maybe our photo identity revealed at inappropriate places! Unfortunately, privacy could be a thing of the past in this country altogether.