A report from Financial Times has uplifted the allegations on the Modi government, for engaging in surveillance of the citizens through the procurement of necessary surveillance tools from Israeli tech companies like Cognyte and Septier. The FT report gathered information from four individuals with experience in the submarine cable projects across global locations. These sources spotlighted that India’s approach is peculiar, easily mandating the telecom companies to set up surveillance tools at subsea cable landing stations and government-approved data centers as a major requirement for operating it.
Septier, which is headquartered in Israel, has noticeably supplied its lawful interception technology to major telecom companies like Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, and Singapore’s Singtel. It was displayed in Septier’s promotional video, where the technology was designed to extract “voice, messaging services, web surfing and also email correspondence” from targeted or selected individuals. Simultaneously, Cognyte, another Israeli firm, is also active in delivering the surveillance products domestically.
In 2021, Meta claimed that among all other companies, Cognyte was implicated in tracking journalists and politicians throughout the world. This surveillance system has been implemented at subsea cable landing stations, enabling Indian security agencies to potentially access the personal data and communications regarding 1.4 billion individuals in the country.
The Modi administration received criticism from Opposition party leaders, journalists and activists who blamed the utilization of Pegasus spyware for surveillance in the year 2019 and 2021. The Washington Post disclosed information about the Pegasus spyware, describing how it entered mobile phones via links and secretly gathered emails, calls and text messages.
India is not the only country that accepts a legal interception system. Nations such as Rwanda and Uganda also have comparable interception laws. The Snowden leaks in 2013 revealed that intelligence agencies in the US and the UK were managing boundless surveillance through secret agreements with telecommunications companies.