Friday, July 1, 2022

Russia pushes law to force taxi apps to share data with spy agency

After Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, the country has strengthened its legislative arsenal, allowing for heavy fines or prison sentences for anyone found guilty of 'discrediting' or publishing 'false information' about its operation.

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Russia’s government has put forward a law to force ride-hailing apps to give the FSB intelligence agency real-time access to their data.

The Russian authorities have been ramping up restrictions on public freedoms since the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine on Feb 24.

“The document prescribes the obligation of the taxi ordering service to provide the FSB with automated remote access to the information systems and databases used to receive, store, process and transmit taxi orders,” a statement published Wednesday by the lower house State Duma said.

Lawmaker Adalbi Shkhagoshev, a member of parliament’s security committee, told state news agency RIA Novosti that “this is a very difficult measure to implement, but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary”.

Until now, the FSB could obtain this information if it filed a formal request with the taxi services, who had the right to respond within 30 days, according to the chairman of the national taxi development council, Irina Zaripova.

“Many are afraid that the FSB could receive information about passengers at any time in real time,” she told Russian radio station Kommersant FM in late March, when the idea was first mooted by the Russian transport ministry.

“But when it comes to national security, very often there are situations where something has happened and FSB agents need to have this data practically within an hour to solve a crime or prevent it,” she explained.

She insisted that “no one is going to be monitoring this data from morning to night”.

Yasha Aliev, a 24-year-old economy student, said the measure was a violation of privacy.

“When you are being followed without your knowledge, without your permission – I think that’s not right,” he said.

Kristina Kosheleva, a 23-year-old customer service employee, said she would not stop using taxi apps because of the new legislation.

“I believe that everything is on the surface anyway, and we won’t be able to hide from anyone,” she said.

After the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, the country has strengthened its legislative arsenal, which allows for heavy fines or prison sentences for anyone found guilty of “discrediting” the military or publishing “false information” about its operation.

Authorities have blocked access to the popular social networks Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and taken legal action against tech giant Meta, accusing it of spreading “calls to kill” Russians.

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