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Russians to be obliged to store their personal data only on domestic servers

Following the law, which compels all payment systems to carry out all Russian transactions through processing centers in the country, the State Duma lower house of parliament has approved amendments to the laws on protection and processing of personal data in the Internet. The name and surname, sex and age as well as passport data should be stored and processed on servers located in Russia. This quite disputable document stirred up an avalanche of furious comments in the Russian sector of the Internet and sharp criticism in the expert community.

Violators of the law, adopted hastily and almost without debate last Friday, will be put on one more blacklist in a register of Russian telecommunications watchdog which has already several blacklists on pirate websites, web resources with appeals to extremism, child's pornography, propaganda of suicide and drugs.

Experts hope that the law which is to come into force on September 1, 2016, after being approved by the Federation Council upper house of Russian parliament and signed by the president, will undergo drastic changes. Otherwise, Russians will have to give up using many popular foreign Internet services, including hotel and air ticket booking as well as purchases in Internet shops.

"The world is now suffering from a true information war, including against Russians," author of the bill and lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vadim Dengin said, noting that "the Americans are spying even after their European partners. Naturally, massive data about residence places of people, their bank accounts and their credit cards' numbers present a keen analytical interest for security services."

In his words, a task group involving experts and business people will set up in September 2014 to finalize the law. "We want to put it clearly that the mechanism of personal information storage will be created exactly in this way so that foreigners will be able to begin preparing for this in advance," the expert explained why the amendments were adopted in a haste and without proper discussion with expert and business communities.

The law may strip Russian Internet users of an opportunity to buy air tickets through online booking services. Airlines throughout the world use a global distribution system (GDS) for booking, servers of which are located outside Russia, ChronoPay Director General Alexei Kovyrshin told RBC daily. Russian online booking systems do not exist on the market and if the law is enacted "Russians will be unable to fly to Europe and even to buy a ticket from Moscow to St. Petersburg via Internet."

Russian electronic communications association which represents interests of more than 100 Internet companies warned that the impossibility to book air tickets and hotel rooms in the Internet might scare out those who would like to run a business and make investments in Russia.

Almost all experts find the law half-baked and do not lose the hope that it will be brought back for second reading and finalized.

"I hope that it will not take effect in 2016," director for strategic projects of the Internet Research Institute Irina Levova said, noting that "the document does not separate state needs and some information that is related to the state and commercial structures."

"A new initiative looks strange only at first sight, but it is quite consistent with ideas already voiced by state authorities," Moskovsky Komsomolets daily quoted analyst of Alpari company Anna Bodrova as saying. "State authorities want to concentrate all processes inside the country as much as possible so that it will be easier to track financial flows, analyze the demand and monitor the situation in general. However, the weak point of all this initiative is its attainability, as this law can be fulfilled by no more than ten percent. Some loopholes to evade the law will be found surely," she noted.

However, Internet's 'purge' continues. In the second half of July the government should adopt bylaws which will introduce new rules for the Russian Internet segment starting from August 1. An Internet resource, through which web users transmit some information, will have to register in the Federal Service for Control over Telecommunications, Information Technologies and Mass Communications. Law breakers will be fined, but mostly important is that the access to their Internet resources will be blocked. Popular bloggers, whose web pages are read by more than three thousand people daily, should abide to requirements of the law on mass media.

Meanwhile, Russian Internet users are searching for those loopholes, which experts say about, in attempts to find an adequate response to legislative pressure. "Runet guerrillas" already exist and they are acting, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported on Tuesday. For instance, at the democratic forum of political and civil activists from the Russian northern capital of St. Petersburg held in Finland the other day Internet portal RosComSvoboda, which was created by the unregistered Pirate Party of Russia, held a seminar devoted to concrete ways to bypass web blockings.

It turned out that there are already at least ten ways to circumvent web filters. They range from breaking filter software created for the purpose for the last 12-18 months after the high-profile "law on blacklists", which permitted to impose out-of-court bans to software, enabling online anonymity and used throughout the world. There are all kinds of ways, from specific software simplest to use to that requiring quite a serious level of computer expertise. But there are legal capacities of Internet turbo boosters in the most popular Internet browsers not registered in state agencies, and if a web user applies them he becomes some kind of invisible for a supervising eye.

[Source: By Lyudmila Alexandrova, Itar Tass, Moscow, 08Jul14]

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