Russian data law fuels web surveillance fears | World news | The Guardian
A new law has been implemented in Russia that in theory demands companies store data about Russian citizens on Russian territory, throwing thousands of firms with online operations into a legal grey area.
The law, which came into operation on Tuesday, is part of an attempt to wrest control of the internet, which president Vladimir Putin has called a “CIA project”. The Russian authorities are keen to ensure greater access for domestic security services to online data, and lessen the potential for foreign states, especially the US, to have the same access.
The law has created disquiet among internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, which would have to move data on Russian users to servers inside Russia and notify the Russian internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor, about their location.
As is often the case with Russian legislation, the exact scope of the law is unclear. It could be left largely unimplemented, but always available as a tool to use when required.
“Transnational internet giants are not the main object of attention for this law. It’s more about the banking sphere, air travel, hotels, mobile operators, e-commerce. This is what is important,” Roskomnadzor’s spokesman, Vadim Ampelonsky, told Kommersant-FM radio. However, while insisting there were no plans to bring Facebook and other major companies to book in the short-term, he implicitly left open the possibility it could happen later.
“We are not saying that if they don’t move their data to Russia, we’ll close them down, and in 2015 we definitely won’t say that. The plan for checks for 2015 has already been drawn up, and Facebook, Twitter and Google are not part of it,” he said.
“The law is not meant to be taken literally,” said Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist and co-author of The Red Web, an upcoming book about the internet in Russia. “The idea is to have a pretext to force these big global companies to talk to the Kremlin. It could also force them to open offices here, which would make them more amenable to pressure from authorities.”