DailyPost 1761

Interception has been part of statecraft and also the underbelly of state actors across the globe. The gap between interception and legal interception has always been thin. The revelations of Edward Snowden are a gory reminder of what all can happen under precincts of the law. But for Snowden the activities which led to the revelation would have remained legal for all times to come. What effort is required to unravel what is legal or not is a cyber security research project in itself. What we are witnessing with the onset of Pegasus can clearly be termed as the Post Interception of Age. The Pegasus Project has put the capability of this malware in the public domain. This was known both to the security experts and lots of victims of Pegasus earlier.

Can it be called interception in the case of the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi? The first challenge is; who is the subject of interception. Interception means getting hold of a message or voice, that too after lots of efforts, which is likely to get clues for some major crime, the location of the accused etc. The phone to be tapped was that of the suspect, subject or the accused as the case may be. In this case, Jamal Khashoggi was not subject to interception. The laws are open to interpretation, but for common understanding and also for the purposes of technical understanding,  interception of whatever kind and hacking fall in two categories in law of; interception, hacking, privacy etc.

Just for academic purposes; can anybody who is connected to the subject be put on interception, even if the concerned person is in no way connected to the crime, for which the law is enacted? The direct connection between the need to get information on the accused seems to be the only logical connect, and legal too. If you relate it to the physical search and seizure procedures; it can only be conducted when it is amply substantiated. Don’t we require  the same legal  test for  gathering information, the concentric web of information and crime starts from the accused and not the other way round. Interception and hacking are two different things and taking it a stage further, hacking and Pegasus are two different worlds.

Pegasus today stands tall as a verb, like Pegasus has been done to Mr. A, B or C.  Pegasus is not just mere hacking, it is taking over your personal, professional and financial life and opens up all your contacts, your social media universe to unforeseen dangers. Democracies across the world have to decide;  what is permissible in our  democratic existence? From NSA, Cambridge Analytica, Pegasus through governments and vice versa and intensive corporate surveillance, where can hapless citizens go for cover. Pegasus is not the only software in this trade nor is the Pegasus Project the only misadventure. Beyond the din and clamor, beyond the investigation; should this capability be allowed to exist? Something closest it can compared with, is nuclear non-proliferation.


Sanjay Sahay

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