Honesty Policy: Russia Making No Bones About Spying On Everyone During The Olympics

from the i-seeeeeeee-you dept

I'll give the Russian government this: they don't really pretend to be something they aren't. Unlike the US government's NSA spying program, which was only revealed through the leaks of now Russian house guest Edward Snowden, the Russian government wants you to know that they don't give a fly's poop about your civil liberties or anyone's concept of freedom of the press.

So says Russia, which has publically and completely above-board-ly announced that journalists covering the Olympic Games in Sochi will have their electronic communications monitored thoroughly by the Russian government.

A series of articles last fall revealed the amazing extent of the centralized surveillance, which exceeds the capabilities of the Chinese monitoring system at the Beijing games, and is given much wider latitude to eavesdrop than even our own NSA programs. The very communications infrastructure in Sochi was built to give government security systems full access, and not a single text message, email, or phone call will go un-monitored.

Russia's response has been a big shrug. Voice of Russia, an official government organ, published an article telling visitors not to be afraid—it's for your own security. Then, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree authorizing the government to collect all phone and internet data at the Olympics. The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that reporters are twice specifically highlighted as targets in the decree.
The whole "it's for your own good" line is a sham, of course. What the Russian government is actually worried about is any reporting on their own security flaws in the upcoming Games, along with the prospect of foreign journalists getting in contact with any activists, protesters, or opposition figures. But, hey, we're nitpicking here. The real story is that the Russian government gets the same spy-boners as the United States and the Chinese, but at least they tell you all about it. Like a peeping tom that sends you an Outlook calendar invite for when they'll be activating the toilet cams, or something.

This publicity is probably itself part of the program of staving off any real work journalists might want to do. But that's the beauty of it: they get to appear to be transparent while still retaining that good old fashion Orwellian feeling. So...progress?



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 2:25am

    The obvious answer!

    messenger pigeons!

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 2:27am

    Aaaah the Olympics. The greatest antithesis of everything they are supposed to stand for at least found a host that's actually honest about the real intents.

     

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  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 3:15am

    Re: The obvious answer!

    Or take gadgets that aren't registered to the journalist him/herself and use THOSE gadgets for what matters. With all the encryption and security measures necessary.

    You know, like criminals do to fool law enforcement? Except that now it's the good guys doing it because law enforcement stopped caring about criminals and only care about Orwellian control.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:04am

    Re:

    Yeah, gotta give the Russians credit - there's no bullshit behind their surveillance of 'them filthy furriners'.

    Which is not a thing I'd expect - that the Russians are more open about their motive than the Americans and the British.

     

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  5.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:08am

    Re: Re:

    The US and UK governments are still pretending that the whole 'democracy' thing matters to them, the Russians on the other hand just don't feel like bothering with the effort to lie like that.

     

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  6.  
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    CK20XX (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:39am

    Cracked.com Said It Best

    We laughed at Vladimir Putin for pretending to be a Bond villain, and now we're not laughing because he's not pretending. He just realized that ballot papers work better than orbital death rays. It's much easier to make demands of a national government when you're their boss.

     

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  7.  
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    Daniel Joseph Calvanese, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 5:14am

    Russia can't be hypocritical about mass surveillance because its people as a whole wouldn't buy it.

    "In dictatorships we are more fortunate than you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know it's propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West, we've learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you we know that the real truth is always subversive." --Zdener Urbanek

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Dima, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 6:01am

    I'm a critic as much as anyone of the NSA's lawless surveillance practices, but if you are trying to make Russia seem somehow less harmful, you are making a big mistake.

    Violations of civil liberties are reprehensible, no matter if they are telling you about it or attempting to hide it from you. Let's not encourage some kind of deplorable new standard that information implies consent.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 6:15am

    I wonder if the Russian government purchased pre-owned TSA x-ray machines at a discounted price while they were at it.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    Oh yes, it's so much better to lie about it.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 6:55am

    Quit bitchin', the US lost any moral high ground to complain from

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 7:13am

    So it's OK for an official in Russia to reveal that government spying takes place over there, but when a US citizen reveals the same in his own country, he is "helping terrorists"?

    (Or are American terrorists so much dumber than Russian terrorists that they could never have suspected that government spying ever takes place?)

     

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  13.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 7:16am

    Re: Re: The obvious answer!

    Except doing what you propose makes you the bad guy. Anyone trying to fool the Russian government is a bad guy, no matter why you're trying to fool them.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    The USG may have, but Its Citizens have not and there are many that are angry and trying still to put a hat on it.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 8:58am

    beer goggles

    In Mother Russia... I better not too messed up. I'm SMH wondering how in the hell did that get in there.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:00am

    It only happens at the Olympics, really

    Don't you think Russia can or has the means to do that all the time to all citizens over its huge territory. Even Putin said he can't do that, but they indeed effing do it in Sochi, a subtropical beach resort area by Russians. Nonetheless, transformed into the winter olympics area that is it now. It seems that when the decision was made, the Chechen revolt was finally crushed forever (2007).

    That place is 500km or so from an ex total warzone, I imagine if the games happened elsewhere in russia (not in the northern caucasus) they wouldn't be going this far.

     

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  17.  
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    Joe2, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, no NSL "we arrest you" decrees. It's more like "let us or we shoot you and make it look like an accident/suicide" orders. :D

     

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  18.  
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    Joe2, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:38am

    Re: Cracked.com Said It Best

    Yeah, never understood why in a world full of villains, James Bond never went up against a politically-savvy enemy who you know - actually tried to get elected. Then again, it's a spy novel series presented from a UK's POV. You never saw him fighting British corruption.

     

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  19.  
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    Joe2, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:42am

    Re:

    The only thing that changed is that instead of everyone with any sense knowing it was happening, was someone actually involved, verifying that yes, in fact, the NSA was crossing every which line they could find and actively lying about it. It's a shock that leaks don't happen more often, with the way they run it, and this sentence IS considering the punishment aspect.

     

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  20.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:45am

    Re: Re: Cracked.com Said It Best

    That, and if James Bond were real, he'd be objectively one of the worst spies in the history of spying.

     

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  21.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:46am

    Re:

    Violations of civil liberties are reprehensible, no matter if they are telling you about it or attempting to hide it from you


    Absolutely. But being up front about it is better than pretending it isn't happening.

     

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  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:48am

    Re: It only happens at the Olympics, really

    I doubt that. I think they'd be going that far no matter where it was -- just as we'd go that far if it were in the US. The difference is that we'd lie about it.

     

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  23.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Cracked.com Said It Best

    Actually, wouldn't he be one of the best?

    Think about it, everyone turns their attentions to him, thinking he's the real threat while other spies go about and steal information from the terrorists while Bond is tied up to an elaborate death trap, etc.

    When Bond gets back, all the normal spies are safe and sound and he's the only one who was ever at risk.

     

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  24.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Cracked.com Said It Best

    That would make him the best decoy, wouldn't it?

    And what about the tremendous amount of death and injury bond causes to innocent people in the course of his actions?

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:31am

    What you won't be hearing in this, is someone playing a Snowden against Russia over spying. It simply won't be an issue of revelation.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Cracked.com Said It Best

    Somehow that had a funny enough ring to it for me to chuckle irl. He's literally Team America:World Police but British.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    That's right. The russians are cake when it comes to caricaturization but I actually think they are less disgusting in their corruption. Whatever is the party Putin is in (let's not forget that they have elections), I'm pretty sure that they more honour than their American colleagues. They actually had a war against muslim extremists on their own land, much more deadly than the WTC attacks, way way more. They actually have tangible reasons to be this paranoid.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, they did, because they have by large done nothing against it. Only very few people actually deserve that moral high ground, not "the people".

    And don't even try to tell me they couldn't know, yes they could. All the info is available, they just couldn't be bothered to know.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 10:49am

    So they get hundreds of threats from their favorite terrorists but its completly irrelevant.
    The obviously doing this to prevent the CIA spies using their phones...
    Do you guys seriously believe this? In this case they have a very good reason to do it, and im pretty sure that real spies would not use a russian phone anyway.
    And which activists are soo worried about their privacy? The ones who run around naked in a church and get paid 10000$ for it?

     

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  30.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    'Available'? You mean like it was 'available' to the people who were supposed to be providing oversight, and checks and balances on the power of, the spy agencies, and who were instead lied to and given the run around?

    When even they didn't have, and in fact couldn't have(due to the previously mentioned lies and misdirections), a clue as to just how bad it was before the Snowden leaks started coming out, the idea that the public could have known, but chose not to is beyond ridiculous.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    Re:

    Why would they want those? The Russians want to collect USEFUL information and those don't seem to provide any information at all. That is unless you are a pervert, then you might find the information they provide quite useful but otherwise not so much.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Kevin Schmidt, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Re:

    "American terrorists" are the US Government and US Military.

     

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  33.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 2:32pm

    Re:

    Do you guys seriously believe this?

    Believe that the Russian government is spying on everything in Sochi? Sure, do you see any reason not to believe it?

    In this case they have a very good reason to do it,

    They always do, don't they?

    and im pretty sure that real spies would not use a russian phone anyway.

    Gotta use a Russian cell network though, unless you have a satellite phone.

     

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  34.  
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    Eldakka (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 3:08pm

    Re:

    What civil liberties are being violated?

    Does Russian law/constitution recognise/enshrine civil liberties?

    If not then they can't be violated in Russia as they don't exist.

     

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  35.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re:

    If not then they can't be violated in Russia as they don't exist.

    If you define civil liberties as those protected by law, yes. One could define them as intrinsic to personhood though.

     

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  36.  
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    btrussell (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Cracked.com Said It Best

    "Fleming based his fictional creation on a number of individuals he came across during his time in the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II, admitting that Bond " was a compound of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war "."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond

    "...one of the worst spies in the history of spying...."

    In other words, all spying is bad

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 4:36pm

    What am i missing? (Or, Why there isn't a Big Brother Sochi)

    Even if all Sochi phone data is kept on file somewhere, I'm finding difficult to see how Russia could ever hear a tourist's dirty conversation if both parties aren't "of interest".

    Sochi must be home to an avalanche of electronic comms, far too massive for even Mother Russia to attempt any real-time eavesdropped of each tourist's dirty phone call to some other nobody ...presumably not-their-spouse.

    "full access" isn't crime-prevention, it's post-hoc forensics.

    In a very real sense, nobody is "watching" you. Nobody is "monitoring". Because "keeping a continuous record of" is a million light-years away from "to observe, notice or perceive (something) AND REGISTER IT AS BEING SIGNIFICANT". Only then can Big Brother attempt to take preventative action.

    With big data, such en masse surveillance might be somewhat "dissuasive", at a stretch this makes it a "safety measure", but primarily I fail to see how a huge private database --even with Intelligence software cleverly scanning it in real-time for red flags-- has proven itself to be "predictive" as distinct from "explanatory" (persecutory) hours days weeks or months AFTER-the-fact.

    Discuss.

    /rant

     

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  38.  
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    Alana (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Re:

    I didn't know Russians were into Furries that much.

     

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  39.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 8:14pm

    Re: What am i missing? (Or, Why there isn't a Big Brother Sochi)

    Discuss.

    I just gave you an insightful vote instead. :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Feb 4th, 2014 @ 9:21pm

    Re: Re:

    Dima wasn't saying that at all, they were saying that all surveillance has equal potential for harm whether it's hidden or out in the open.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm saying that everything in Sochi and around it (the Northern Caucasus) is under extreme surveillance. For pretty good reasons, like, they actually had real wars against batshit insane muslims, who happen to be white and have russian last names. I know it's hard to understand for most Westerners (I am one).

    What I was saying is that they don't do this all the time in all of Russia. This is an exception to the rule right here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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