Russia Aims to Scale Up Online Snooping
Rahvusvahelised uudised 17 Jan 2014  EWR
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Transitions Online 15 January 2014
Legislators in Russia were set to introduce measures today (January 15) that would help the security services keep tabs on Internet users and severely restrict the use of online payment systems, RIA Novosti reports.

Billed as anti-terrorist proposals, the legislation would require “any website that allows users to post comments” to “inform the authorities about it and store logs for six months,” the news agency reports, citing the bills’ sponsors.

In addition, people in Russia would not be allowed to use online payment systems to transfer money abroad, and domestic transfers would be capped at 15,000 rubles ($450) a month, down from the current 40,000 rubles, according to RIA Novosti.

Yandex.Money, the most popular online payment system in Russia, said in a report last year (pdf) that at least 2.1 million people in the country’s bigger cities use its services at least twice a year.

The rules would apply not only to Russian sites but also to those based abroad that operate in the country.

Discussion of the surveillance measure surfaced in the fall, when Kommersant reported that the security agencies were pushing to require Internet service providers and mobile operators to store records of user activity for at least 12 hours.

Data to be stored would include “email addresses, Internet addresses, web-chat IDs, and the physical locations of people using Skype or Google Hangouts,” according to a Bloomberg report in October.

Writing for Bloomberg, commentator Leonid Bershidsky pointed out that the measure appears to violate a constitutional prohibition on the collection and storage of a citizen’s personal information without his or her consent.

“The new requirements would bring SORM” – Russia’s existing electronic surveillance system – “up to the level of the comparable U.S. and U.K. systems, PRISM and Tempora,” Bershidsky wrote.

The director of a government advisory group that monitors Russia’s Internet for illegal or extremist content told the ITAR-Tass news agency in October, “We must remember that these measures are taken for the safety of society from external and internal threats. The most important thing is that the measures be implemented in full, and not turned into fiction.”

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