In the light of recent spying controversy involving WhatsApp, the Indian government is consulting Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to deliberate on the risks in allowing social media platforms into the digital payments space.
"We are reaching out to the NPCI and the RBI to discuss safety features and in case some extra steps need to be undertaken to ensure security of financial data is not breached," a senior government official told Economic Times.
The recent lawsuit filed in the US against Israeli company NSO and its software Pegasus, said to be responsible for the intrusion, had spread alarm among Indian authorities, he said.
Last week, WhatsApp sued the Israeli firm NSO in the US, accusing it of helping governments break into the phones of around 1,400 users across the world, including social activists, diplomats, senior government officials and journalists. Court filings allege that the Israeli company reverse-engineered the messaging app and developed a program that copied WhatsApp’s network traffic to target devices over the app’s servers.
WhatsApp, on its part, claimed it had informed the government about the breach in May and September. However, government sources said WhatsApp had given information to CERT-IN, a government agency in May, but without any mention of Pegasus or the extent of the breach.
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market, with 400 million users.
The controversy is likely to put the launch of WhatsApp’s payment feature on hold.
The government is also engaged in a back and forth with the Facebook-owned messaging app over the traceability of messages on its platform.
"If it is a coincidence, it is too much of a coincidence that WhatsApp is under global pressure on the traceability part and Indian government is looking to make social media companies more accountable," a source told LiveMint, saying the work on Personal Data Protection Bill is underway and will come up in next session of Parliament.