The Russian government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is against freedom for the internet. The Russian government views the internet as a tool to control and monitor the public. Continuing in this trend, the Russian government has recently passed new laws restricting the internet, forcing internet companies to store and share client data with the government, and cracking down on dissent and protesters.
One of the serious consequences of this new law is that it would “force phone companies and internet service providers to retain up to six months of communications between users, and require companies to store metadata for up to three years.”(1) Not only are there serious issues regarding privacy and anonymity to take in to account, but these new storage laws are expected to cost companies billions of dollars to implement. Many of the smaller companies are finding it difficult to achieve these goals.
Russia wants its peoples’ information recorded and easily available. They are even willing to use force to achieve these goals. To gather a richer perspective from those directly affected, The Online Mind interviewed Ted Kim, CEO of London Trust Media Incorporated, home of the company Private Internet Access. Private Internet Access operated in Russia hosting public data and VPNs; praised for their anonymity they were a direct target by the Russian government.
Russia recently has made changes to its surveillance legislation. How has this directly affected your company?
Has the Russian government provided any compensation or satisfactory resolution?
No. Unfortunately, it seems to be going the other way in that the Russian government has taken further actions in attempting to put an end to encryption, which is an impossible task.
When the Russian authorities seized your equipment, what was the experience like? Were they reasonable and explanatory?
We received no official notice of the seizure; instead, we were told by our datacenter provider that the seizure had occurred.
Do you know of others affected in Russia due to the new legislation?
It’s difficult for us to comment on other companies. Each tech company is different and has their own standards and practices. That being said, it has been reported that several other VPN providers have also pulled their servers or services from Russia.
Do you consider Russia’s actions unethical?
Yes. It’s clear that people in countries with oppressive laws need to be using a VPN. At the end of the day, you cannot defeat the power of communication and information. Attempting to discourage or disable private citizens from communication, information and technology is something that is difficult for us to understand but it is obviously happening. Legislative actions such as these are the most compelling reason for people to have a VPN with strong and proven privacy policies, like Private Internet Access.
Ted Kim is correct when he suggests that the world of information and communication can not be controlled. The Russian people are looking for ways to share their ideas, to critique their government, and to build a more connected and progressive society. The Russian government and its repressive regime has knee jerk reactionary behaviour whenever it feels insecure. The internet is one of the only free avenues of discourse available for the Russian people. Putin is seizing control not to stop terrorism or radicalism, but to flatten political opposition, to halt the spread of progressive ideals, and to reaffirm his ideological grasp on the country.
Putin knows that if the Russian people have free, open, and anonymous communication his legitimacy will quickly crumble. All tyrants do the same thing when they feel their power slipping – they tighten their grip.
By Daniel Govedar (August 2016)