Modi Govt Accused of Widespread Surveillance Using Israeli Surveillance Tools

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Among the companies mentioned in the report, the Israel-based firm Septier is reported to have provided its “lawful interception technology” to major telecommunication groups, including Reliance Jio led by Mukesh Ambani, Vodafone Idea, and Singapore’s Singtel

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – In a recent report by the Financial Times titled “India’s communications backdoor attracts surveillance companies,” alarming revelations have emerged about the Indian government’s use of powerful surveillance tools procured from Israeli firms to monitor its citizens. The report sheds light on the extent to which India’s communications infrastructure is being utilized to enable surveillance companies to gain access to private information, raising concerns about citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

The report specifically highlights the acquisition of surveillance equipment from Israeli companies like Cognyte and Septier, which are reportedly being deployed at subsea cable landing stations and data centers across the country. These tools are allegedly being mandated for installation by telecom companies, effectively granting Indian security agencies unprecedented access to personal data and communications of the nation’s 1.4 billion citizens.

Among the companies mentioned in the report, the Israel-based firm Septier is reported to have provided its “lawful interception technology” to major telecommunication groups, including Reliance Jio led by Mukesh Ambani, Vodafone Idea, and Singapore’s Singtel. The technology purportedly allows the extraction of various forms of communication such as voice calls, messaging services, web browsing history, and email correspondence from targeted individuals.

In addition, Cognyte, another Israeli firm mentioned in the report, was previously alleged to have been involved in tracking journalists, human rights activists, and politicians across multiple countries, although India was not specifically mentioned in those allegations.

The report quotes individuals who have worked on international submarine cable projects, describing India’s approach to surveillance as “unusual.” Unlike most other countries, India openly requires telecom companies to install surveillance equipment at key communication infrastructure points, and this requirement is presented as a condition for their operation in the country.

This revelation comes after previous controversies, including the use of the Pegasus spyware in 2021, which led to accusations against the Modi government of targeting opposition party leaders, journalists, and activists. The Pegasus spyware, developed by an Israeli firm, was reportedly used to hack mobile phones and clandestinely gather emails, calls, and text messages, primarily targeting individuals in sensitive positions such as journalists, human rights activists, politicians, and business executives.

Critics of India’s current legal framework argue that the government’s pursuit of surveillance capabilities is being prioritized over the rights and privacy of its citizens. The recently passed personal data protection bill has been heavily criticized for allegedly favoring government interests over those of the people, raising concerns about arbitrary decision-making and lack of transparency.

This development underscores the ongoing global debate around the balance between national security interests and individual privacy rights. As these revelations come to light, citizens, activists, and international organizations are likely to intensify their calls for greater transparency, accountability, and safeguards against unwarranted surveillance.

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