Earlier today, President Putin ordered the Federal Security Service to produce “encryption keys” capable of decrypting all data on the internet. No one is really sure what this means exactly, but the FSB has two weeks to make them, Meduza reports. That’s just one part of the Russian government’s silly and insanely expensive new plan for internet surveillance, signed into law under the “anti-terrorist” bill today and going into effect on July 20th.
These regulations aren’t just terrifyingly invasive. They’re technically nonsense, and they’re so costly to try to implement that they could put many internet and phone service providers out of business, force noncomplying foreign companies out of Russia and kick a massive dent into Kremlin’s already crumbling infrastructure budget. There’s a great comprehensive breakdown on Meduza (and another one here), but here are some impractical highlights:
- Telecom providers and “organizers of information distribution” (basically, any website) must store copies of the content of all information they transmit (including phone calls and text messages) for six months and store the metadata for three years so they can give Kremlin whatever it wants, whenever.
- To store this data, internet providers would need to build new and massive data centers and buy imported equipment, all without state subsidies, which could put them out of business.
- To actually operate the data centers, the Russian government would need to upgrade Russia’s janky electrical grid and old data cables.
- All this could cost between $30 and $77 billion.
Now to the fun part, the magical all-internet-decrypting keys!
- Not only do “organizers of information distribution” have to store all transmitted information, they have to turn over “any information necessary to decrypt those messages.”
- So, “additional coding” has to be added to all electronic messages which will function as instructions for the FSB to “decode” them.
- For many services and websites, “keys” don’t exist or are fundamentally un-shareable (banks and financial institutions, etc.)
- Nearly all electronic information is “encoded” in some way.
- Good fucking luck.
And if in two weeks the head of KGB’s successor FSB was to miraculously produce all these keys to all of the internet? The end game of the “anti-terrorist” legislation bundle would presumably be to create a central data center (let’s call it “basket”) to store all of the keys (let’s call them “eggs”). And considering that the people who would be in charge of all this very sensitive information seem to know less about how the internet works than I do, that’s probably not a very good idea.
What does all this have anything to do with “anti-terrorism?” The new legislation is part of an evolving set of “anti-extremism” measures. In theory, the new laws pretend to stop “terrorist acts” and “armed uprisings.” In practice, “anti-extremism” and “anti-hate speech” laws have been used to block opposition websites, bully religious groups and jail a dude who posted an anti-Crimea annexation meme about toothpaste for his twelve online friends.