Russia’s server control: Beyond LiveJournal

Why did LiveJournal’s move its servers to Moscow? Because of a law requiring websites that do business in Russia to store data on Russians in Russia. SUP is a Russian company, so it really had no choice. The authorities may even have ordered it not to tell anyone, though it couldn’t hide the fact.

This is only a small part of what’s happened in that country. Most LiveJournal users haven’t noticed that the same law led to permanently blocking LinkedIn. Apple and Google have agreed to remove LinkedIn from the Russian edition of their app stores. Google has moved its data on Russians to Russian servers.

The LiveJournal situation looks even more alarming in this context. Putin’s government wants Russians’ data where it can easily read them. LiveJournal consists mostly of day-to-day personal stories, but LinkedIn is full of valuable business information, including messages which people think are private. It would be a huge boost to the country’s internal espionage system. Connecting the two, matching up LiveJournal messages with LinkedIn profiles, would offer the Kremlin even more.

It isn’t just that the data is physically located there. The law mandates backdoors into all encrypted storage. EFF reports:

But some of the greatest confusion has come from Internet service providers and other telecommunication companies. These organizations now face impossible demands from the Russian state. Now they can be ordered to retain every byte of data that they transmit, including video, telephone calls, text messages, web traffic, and email for six months—a daunting and expensive task that requires the kind of storage capacity that’s usually associated with NSA data centers in Utah. Government access to this data no longer requires a warrant. Carriers must keep all metadata for three years; ISPs one year. Finally, any online service (including social networks, email, or messaging services) that uses encrypted data is now required to permit the Federal Security Service (FSB) to access and read their services’ encrypted communications, including providing any encryption keys.

The pieces fit together disturbingly. If you’re in Russia, the government wants to know everything about you, and it has criminalized dissent. Westerners using LiveJournal are just experiencing the fallout of this, but Putin’s government now has backdoor access on all of them.

Just get out of LiveJournal. It’s worse than we thought.

Published by

Gary McGath

I am a freelance writer, author of the books _Files that Last_ and _Tomorrow's Songs Today_, with a strong background in software development, file formats, and digital preservation.

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