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    WhatsApp snooping row: Baghel orders probe

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    Raipur: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has ordered a probe by a three-member committee into the illegal surveillance of some individuals in the state through WhatsApp using an Israeli-made spyware, officials said on Monday.

    Baghel has also asked the committee to investigate complaints that the Israeli company NSO, which developed spyware Pegasus used to snoop on people, made a presentation of the software before state police officials two-three years back, they said.

    On October 31, Facebook-owned company WhatsApp said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using Israeli spyware Pegasus, leading to a furore over breach of citizens' privacy.

    As many as five Chhattisgarh-based activists had also claimed that their mobile phones were targeted by the spyware.

    "Taking serious cognisance of the illegal surveillance of smart phones of some persons in the state, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has ordered a probe into it," a Public Relations department official told PTI.

    "It came to light through some media reports and others means, that smart phones of some individuals in the state were hacked. Besides, complaints were also received that Israeli company NSO had made a presentation before state police about their software two-three years back," he said.

    Citing that such complaints are of serious nature as it is a subject of infringement of freedom of citizens, the chief minister directed to probe these complaints, he said.

    A panel headed by principal secretary of the Home department will be constituted for the probe, he said.

    Inspector General of Police (Raipur range) Anand Chhabra and state Public Relations department's director Taran Prakash Sinha will be the other members of the committee, he said, adding that the panel will have to submit its report within a month.

    The state Director General of Police (DGP) will extend every necessary assistance in the probe, he added.

    State-based civil rights activist Alok Shukla, who claimed he was subjected to snooping, hailed the chief minister's decision to order a probe into the matter.

    "It is important to ascertain who roped in the Israeli company NSO (which developed Pegasus) to snoop on people in the country. It is a threat to the privacy of citizens. The chief minister has taken a very important step to get the scandal probed," Shukla, who is convenor of the Chhattisgarh Bacaho Andolan, told PTI.

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