Internet Surveillance Isn’t Outrageous, Data Being For Sale Is

October 23, 2013
Photo: D. Abramov/Vedomosti

Guarantees of privacy and secrecy of correspondence are becoming more elusive. The Federal Security Service (FSB) intends to require providers to install new equipment for comprehensive monitoring of Internet traffic and email correspondence. From the draft joint order by the FSB and the Ministry of Communications, published on the ministry’s website, it is clear that security officers are going to gain remote access to data packets, phone numbers, IP-addresses, records, popular servers’ email addresses and other personal data of Internet users and mobile subscribers. Furthermore, the special services will be able to store the received data packets for 12 hours.

Surveillance over millions of people is not a legislative and rule-making revolution. According to experts, the system to monitor electronic correspondence of citizens and network traffic was established in February 2008. At that time an order was issued to connect the system of operational-search measures (SORM), that allows the law enforcement to monitor the network traffic of interest to them. Even back then, the question of observance of constitutional norms regarding privacy and confidentiality of correspondence sounded rhetorically. New standards nevertheless greatly expand technical intelligence monitoring capabilities for rapidly growing stream of data. They can intercept messages and data remotely and the operator wouldn’t even know about it. Security officials intend to monitor the mailboxes of domestic and foreign companies, such as and

But this is not something extraordinary. Intelligence agencies around the world seek to establish total control over email and telephone calls of millions of citizens for the purposes of detection and suppression of crime.

Yesterday, the U.S. ambassador in Paris was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry, after it was confirmed that the U.S, National Security Agency had access to 70 million (!) phone records by French citizens over the period from December 10, 2012, to January 8, 2013, and had received personal data of 4.5 million users of the popular mail server, wanadoo.

Thus, in terms of attempting to control the flow of data Russia is not unique. Russia is unique in the level of corruption of the state.

First, of concern is the fact that for the observation of the huge flows to the special hardware is required, and some officials will make profits on its procurement. So the purchase of the equipment itself could be one of the reasons for the order by the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Communications. Second, a real source of outrage is the attitude of the security services officials, who treat official information as some exclusive merchandise that is very much in demand at the market. That means, we can expect some CDs with electronic correspondence and negotiations by well-known people to pop up on some specialized markets. The court monitoring of the law enforcement requests for viewing of emails or listening to phone conversations is a pure formality. The agents can include in a request any phone numbers and addresses they want, as was established during the investigation of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a famous journalist, and Andrei Kozlov, the deputy chairman of the Central Bank.