Russia set to pass bill requiring ISPs to eavesdrop on customer data

All in the name of good old “anti-terrorism.”

Maxim Shemetov / REUTERS

Most of the Russian government's attempts to wrangle the internet sound like humorous tirades -- for example, banning Wikipedia for an article on cannabis. But when they command Twitter and Facebook to store Russian users' data inside the country, we're reminded how much they want to keep tabs on their citizens and control their discourse. Yesterday, lawmakers took the first step in passing a measure into law that would require internet providers to give the government access to customer data.

Under the guise of "anti-terrorism", the bill requires ISPs to store actual customer communications for up to six months, which state officials can requisition. They also have to keep metadata for a year, while telecoms have to keep it for three years. Both must provide backdoor access to encrypted messages, like those exchanged using WhatsApp and Telegram, to the FSB, the security agency that succeeded the KGB.

But the measure also included stricter controls for social media speech, increasing the prison time for incitement to terrorism to seven years. Most alarming is a brand new charge: Not informing authorities about a crime or terrorism is now itself a criminal offense that carries a sentence of up to a year in prison.

Yesterday's vote on the bill only passed in the lower body of representatives, the Duma, with 277 for, 148 against and one abstaining. Now it goes to Russia's Federal Council and the Kremlin, where it's expected to sail into law, says The Daily Dot. If so, we could see it come into effect in three years. The debate to require encryption backdoors rages on in America, but we may see its effects on Russian civilians and companies before US legislators vote one way or another.