The meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday was marked by differences among members as they were not able to reach a consensus whether the issue of data privacy should be discussed or not.
Finally, the members opted for voting, which led to a tie. Ultimately, former Union Minister Tharoor set the ball rolling for discussion after using his vote.
According to sources, the members from the government's side opposed to a discussion on the issue of data privacy. There was a heated argument, after which the voting took place. "The vote ended in a tie. Chairman Tharoor used his vote, which was in favour of a discussion, which finally took place," they said.
The discussions on data privacy lasted for three hours.
Officers present in the meeting said on the condition of anonymity that the Central government has not purchased Pegasus spyware.
"On multiple occasions, officers were asked if they'd (government) purchased Pegasus. They vehemently denied," sources said.
Officials from Home and IT Ministries made presentations on WhatsApp breach and data privacy in the meeting.
Cyber-attack on Kudankulam nuclear power plant was also discussed for which officials from the Department of Atomic Energy were also present.
According to government sources in the Information Technology Department, WhatsApp has written to the government expressing regret. CERT-In is examining the issue. The government expects WhatsApp to reinforce its security wall. Any more breach in WhatsApp will not be tolerated. WhatsApp has assured the Centre of taking all security measures.
Earlier in the day, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Lok Sabha that WhatsApp has informed that the full extent of targeting of mobile phone users, including 121 from India, using Israeli Pegasus spyware may never be known and the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has issued a formal notice to the social media platform seeking submission of details and information.
In a written reply, Prasad said that attempts to malign the Government of India for the reported breach are completely misleading.
He said the government has taken note of the fact that a "spyware/malware has affected some Whatsapp users".
The minister said according to WhatsApp, this spyware was developed by an Israel based company NSO Group and that it had developed and used Pegasus spyware to attempt to reach mobile phones of a possible number of 1400 users globally that includes 121 users from India.
He said there are adequate provisions in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 to deal with hacking, spyware etc.