“Russian authorities will be able to identify, tag and follow all visitors to the Olympics, both Russian and foreign, who are discussing gay issues, and possibly planning to organise protests,” the Guardian reports.
Americans this year learned that our government has, indeed, been monitoring our online and telephone communications. Images put into our heads, from movies like the Jason Bourne series, or other spy thrillers, apparently were not that far from their creators’ imaginations.
So it should come as no surprise — and yet, how could it not? — to learn that the Russian government will be monitoring “all communications” thanks to a complete takeover of telecommunications laws and technology by Vladimir Putin‘s government, in Sochi, during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
And — again, no surprise — LGBT people are especially at risk, as a report from the Guardian notes.
Sorm is “Russia’s system for intercepting phone and internet communications,” according to Shaun Walker, writing from Moscow for the UK’s the Guardian — the same paper where Glenn Greenwald introduced us to Edward Snowden and exposed the U.S. government’s PRISM program.
“Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of Citizen Lab,” Walker writes, “describes the Sorm amendments as ‘Prism on steroids,’ referring to the programme used by the NSA in the US and revealed to the Guardian by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“The scope and scale of Russian surveillance are similar to the disclosures about the US programme but there are subtle differences to the regulations,” says Deibert. “We know from Snowden’s disclosures that many of the checks were weak or sidestepped in the US, but in the Russian system permanent access for Sorm is a requirement of building the infrastructure.”
Walker, discussing Russia’s “powerful” federal security service, the FSB, notes that “government procurement documents and tenders from Russian communication companies indicate that newly installed telephone and internet spying capabilities will give the FSB free rein to intercept any telephony or data traffic and even track the use of sensitive words or phrases mentioned in emails, webchats and on social media.”
And he points out, of course, that LGBT people, activists, and allies are especially in danger.
Technical specifications set out by the Russian state telecoms agency also show that a controversial technology known as deep packet inspection, which allows intelligence agencies to filter users by particular keywords, is being installed across Russia’s networks, and is required to be compatible with the Sorm system.
Another target may well be gay rights, likely to be one of the biggest issues of the Games. Putin has said that competitors who wear rainbow pins, for example, will not be arrested under the country’s controversial new law that bans “homosexual propaganda”. However, it is likely that any attempts to stage any kind of rally or gathering to support gay rights will be ruthlessly broken up by police, as has been the case on numerous occasions in Russian cities in the past. Using DPI [deep packet inspection], Russian authorities will be able to identify, tag and follow all visitors to the Olympics, both Russian and foreign, who are discussing gay issues, and possibly planning to organise protests.
“Athletes may have particular political views, or they may be openly gay,” says Deibert. “I think given recent developments in Russia, we have to be worried about these issues.”
Totally unsurprising — and totally shocking.
Image via YouTube
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