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Mamata Banerjee Claims Her Phone Being Tapped as WhatsApp 'Snoopgate' Scandal Swirls

The West Bengal chief minister had earlier asked all her party leaders and workers to refrain from linking their cell phone numbers with Aadhaar, which she says is the government's attempt to breach citizens' privacy.

Sujit Nath | News18

Updated:November 2, 2019, 6:48 PM IST
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Mamata Banerjee Claims Her Phone Being Tapped as WhatsApp 'Snoopgate' Scandal Swirls
File photo of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (PTI)

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday claimed that even her phone was tapped and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take serious note of such incidents of alleged surveillance.

“It is very serious matter as they (hackers) can take all the information from your mobile phone. It is an attack on privacy. We will not able to talk to someone freely,” Banerjee told reporters during the Chhath Puja festival at Kolkata’s Hastings area. “My phone was also tapped and I have said this many time before. It is a serious breach of security. The PM should look into the matter.”

Baenrjee’s reaction came a day after WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging platform, said it had earlier informed Indian authorities about a privacy breach that had targeted several journalists and laywers.

The surveillance revelations come after the messaging platform sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents including diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and government officials. NSO has denied the allegations.

“Our highest priority is the privacy and security of WhatsApp users. In May, we quickly resolved a security issue and notified relevant Indian and international government authorities. Since then we’ve worked to identify targeted users to ask the courts to hold the international spyware firm known as the NSO Group accountable,” WhatsApp said in a statement on Friday.

In a lawsuit filed in a federal court in San Francisco, WhatsApp accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries, calling it “an unmistakable pattern of abuse”.

This is not the first time that Banerjee has claimed her phones and those of her party leaders are being surveilled.

On October 25, 2017, Banerjee refused to link her phone number with Aadhaar, claiming it was a conspiracy to interfere in somebody’s privacy. Her refusal came seven months after the Department of Telecom (DoT) in an official notification called for linking of mobile numbers with Aadhaar.

At the Trinamool Congress’s extended core committee meeting, she had dared mobile service providers and the central government to disconnect her number.

“I will not link my cell phone with Aadhaar. Let them disconnect my cell phone number. I can smell this a conspiracy by the central government. They want to tap phone calls,” she had said. “It is unfortunate that people are scared of the central government. By linking Aadhaar with cell phones, they want to hear the conversation between a wife and husband.”

Banerjee had also asked all her party leaders and workers to refrain from linking their cell phone numbers with Aadhaar.

“If required, we will challenge the decision legally and raise the matter in Parliament. I want to see how many mobile phone connections they will disconnect. Let them disconnect the lines of all TMC workers and leaders. We will be happy, but we will not link them with Aadhaar under any circumstances,” she had said.

Linking Aadhaar with mobile phone numbers has been a matter of controversy for political parties and privacy advocates who believe it gives the government indiscriminate power to breach privacy.

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| Edited by: Moonmoon Ghosh
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