One more bill to finish off Net privacy in Russia

The so-called Media and Communications Union, an association of Russia’s mobile and fixed telecom operators, has drafted a bill that would force all providers of “electronic messaging” services to require that users identify themselves and to block messages or posts with “information disseminated in violation” of the Russian law. Specifically, users would have to be “identified” by their existing records with telecoms providers, which means cell and landline phone numbers, all tied to personal IDs.

The cabinet is scheduled to review the draft in September before sending it to the Duma. While its technical details may change, the bill seems like an attempt to force services like Viber and Skype – but possibly Google Mail and Facebook as well – to effectively abandon their users’ privacy protections against government spying in Russia. Those who refuse would be blocked in Russia. As a consequence, only the tech-savviest users would be able to use these services, as is already the case in China and Iran.

One would think that the proposed bill is redundant after the passage of the notorious Yarovaya law, but the more restrictive bills are passed, the harder it is to repeal them all and clean out that legal cobweb.

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