Russia's Problem (According To Russian Politicians): Not Enough Mass Surveillance

from the can't-be-too-careful dept

When you look back at Techdirt’s coverage of Russia‘s attempts to control its people and shut down online dissent, it’s unlikely you will be thinking to yourself: “What Russia really needs is more mass surveillance.” But Russian politicians would disagree with you there, as they debate bringing in even more powers for the government:

A new bill in the Russian Duma, the country’s lower legislative house, proposes to make cryptographic backdoors mandatory in all messaging apps in the country so the Federal Security Service — the successor to the KGB — can obtain special access to all communications within the country.

Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram, all of which offer varying levels of encrypted security for messages, are specifically targeted in the “anti-terrorism” bill, according to Russian-language media. Fines for offending companies could reach 1 million rubles or about $15,000.

That’s from a report in The Daily Dot. But it appears there’s another angle here, too, as The Moscow Times explains:

The Russian State Duma has recommended new anti-terrorism measures requiring telecommunications operators to store phone and Internet records for three years.

Companies are currently only required to record and store connection details for six months. The new law would change the system to ensure that the content of any call or message would be saved for half a year, while the connection details would be stored for three years, the Interfax news agency reported Friday. All information would be available to state officials “on demand,” the Meduza news website reported in May.

Of course, being able to read encrypted messages or inspect the internet activities of Russians for the last three years is hardly enough to keep everything locked down: what about all those websites stirring up trouble? The new measures wouldn’t deal with them, would they? But don’t worry, Russia’s plucky Attorney General has spotted the problem, and is on it, as the Meduza site informs us:

Russian Attorney General Yuri Chaika has proposed granting regional prosecutors the authority to block websites without any judicial oversight, if the websites spread information about preparations for unsanctioned political demonstrations and calls to mass unrest.

Well, that’s a relief: I was beginning to worry that Russia might be losing control of the situation.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Russia's Problem (According To Russian Politicians): Not Enough Mass Surveillance”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's not just "Russia's Problem"

My theory is this started after some meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs. They drank to much and one started some kind of dare with “We can now find out what kind of underwear everyone is wearin” and of course another replied “Yeaaah? That is nothing! We can…”

Now there is a list of “craziest spy law” and that whole race to be #1 got way out of hand. But that’s just my theory

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I look forward to the public information ads in which they tell us to paint the door white and crouch behind it with a supply of tinned food and bottled water. Wait, that was nuclear war preparation for the plebs.

I don’t think we’re going to be getting any public information ads for this one. Good job we’ve got Techdirt!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: the legal route

The United States does the monitoring illegally.

… lies about it when they get caught, lie again a few more times for good measure, have those (theoretically) involved in ‘oversight’ breathlessly declare that everything is perfectly legal due to the extensive ‘oversight’ they (don’t) provide, followed by attempts to retroactively legalize their actions while claiming that the changes they’re pushing for aren’t a big deal and certainly nothing to get worked up over, lie some more…

Anonymous Coward says:

Like all state surveillance, this is predicated on those in power being in the right, and anybody who differs from their view being in the wrong. In the longer term it hands political change over to small groups of extremists, who will be as tyrannical as the regime that they replace. Russia has experience of this, as the communists who took power were at least as tyrannical as the royalty that they overthrew.

Duke Daniel says:

Sadly, Russia isn’t the only country that seems to think mass surveillance will actually solve problems. But I guess as long as there are independent companies in solid democracies, they can and will provide means to prevent mass surveillance. (For example, I’m using Threema for instant messaging, and TOR for surfing.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Mass surveillance doesn’t solve any problems

Depends on who you are.

A member of the public? No, mass surveillance creates far more problems than it ‘solves’.

A government/government agency that wants to scoop up as much data as possible for any number of reasons(‘sating a voyeuristic fetish’ being one of the more harmless possibilities to give you an idea of how unpleasant the other motivations can be)? For someone like that mass surveillance can solve any number of problems, the first being that pesky ‘privacy’ thing the peons think they have a right to for some reason.

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