A report by a reputed newspaper says that the Modi government at the Centre is spying on its citizens by buying powerful surveillance tools from Israeli tech companies — Cognyte and Septier.
According to the report, the surveillance system is installed on subsea cable landing stations, which allows India’s security agencies to snoop on the personal data and communications of its 1.4 billion citizens.
Israel-based Septier has reportedly sold its lawful interception technology to telecoms groups including Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, and Singapore’s Singtel.
Septier’s technology reportedly extracts “voice, messaging services, web surfing and email correspondence” of targets.
On the other hand, another Israeli company Cognyte also provides surveillance products in India.
In 2021, Meta alleged that Cognyte was among several companies whose services were being used to track journalists and politicians in multiple countries, though it did not mention India.
The Financial Times report cited four people who have worked on submarine cable projects in countries all over the world who said, “India is unusual in that it openly requires telecom companies to install surveillance equipment at subsea cable landing stations and data centres that are approved by the government as a condition of operation”.
India is not alone in having a more permissive legal interception regime. Countries like Uganda and Rwanda have similar interception legislation. In 2013, Snowden leaks revealed the US and the UK intelligence agencies were engaged in mass surveillance via backdoor arrangements with telecom companies.
In 2019 and 2021, Opposition party leaders, journalists, and activists targeted the Modi government for using Pegasus spyware to surveil them. The Washington Post had reported about the Pegasus spyware in which the English daily said that it hacked mobile phones through a link and secretly recorded emails, calls, and text messages.