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?

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Comments on “Honesty Policy: Russia Making No Bones About Spying On Everyone During The Olympics”

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Ninja (profile) says:

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.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

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.

btrussell (profile) says:

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 “.”

“…one of the worst spies in the history of spying….”

In other words, all spying is bad

Daniel Joseph Calvanese (profile) says:

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

Dima says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?)

Joe2 says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.



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