Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network --------------------------------------------------------------------- ## author : email@example.com ## date : 11.04.99 --------------------------------------------------------------------- RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC _____________________________________________________________ RFE/RL WATCHLIST Vol. 1, No. 7, 25 February 1999 A Weekly Checklist Of Events Affecting Civil Societies In Eastern Europe And The Post-Soviet States RUSSIAN FSB SURVEILLANCE OF INTERNET CHALLENGED By Charles Fenyvesi A Russian human rights group has launched a court challenge to secret police surveillance of Internet communications, and those who have brought the case expect the courts to rule in their favor. As Internet has spread to the Russian Federation, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has taken steps to monitor all Internet traffic. It has demanded that each service provider give the FSB, without charge, a separate room in its headquarters with the computer and software necessary to monitor all Internet traffic carried by that service. Boris Pustintsev, a longtime dissident who is now the internationally respected director of Citizens' Watch, a St. Petersburg NGO, is leading a group of human rights activists in challenging this practice. According to Pustintsev, the FSB's Internet arrangement is "illegal" and the FSB uses illegal intimidation to achieve its goals. Whenever a service provider raises objections, he notes, an FSB officer threatens the cancelation of his license, and the service provider caves in. The Russian activist described this situation and his challenge to it during a Feb. 18 seminar organized by American University's Center for the Study of Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption. Pustintsev told RFE/RL during his visit to Washington that his Citizens' Watch is filing a lawsuit, on the basis of a complaint by a new Internet service provider, Oleg Syrov, whom Pustintsev called "a rebel." Based in Volgograd, Syrov recently refused to bend to the FSB's demand for the usual accommodations, and he is now in danger of losing his license. Pustintsev suggested that there is "a very good chance" that Syrov, backed by Citizens' Watch attorneys, will win the case. He said that Russian statutes and the constitution itself are clearly on the side of honoring the privacy of personal communications such as Internet's e-mail service. And he indicated that he hopes that the court will condemn the FSB method of blackmailing service providers. Many Western experts think Pustintsev may succeed. American University's Louise Shelley, a leading authority on crime in the Russian Federation, has noted that Pustintsev has an "unusual ability to build bridges, both to other NGOs and to different sections of the government." Pustintsev believes that the court action may also block a technologically more sophisticated new regulation now being developed. It is known as SORM-2 -- System for Ensuring Investigated Activity - and was recently described in detail in the "St. Petersburg Times" of Feb. 16. According to that paper, SORM-2 is based on a complex new piece of computer equipment which incorporates both hardware and software, and it is now in the offices of the Justice Ministry, "awaiting minor tweaks before its final enactment." SORM-2 is designed "to instigate real-time monitoring of every e-mail message and Web page sent or received in Russia." Such an arrangement would allow the FSB "to play fast and loose with the official presentation of warrants, which, last time we checked, were still required by law." "The St. Petersburg Times" cites experts who estimate that if put in use, SORM-2 will cost service providers several thousand dollars a month for "technical upgrades required to establish 'hotlines' automatically bouncing information directly to FSB computers." Such costs will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher monthly fees, which may then "decimate" the number of users, which in turn will ultimately lead to fewer service providers. "It's a vicious cycle that stifles freedom," the editorial concludes. "SORM-2 is a clear violation of the European convention on human rights, to which Russia is a signatory," according to James Dempsey, the head of a Washington-based NGO that seeks to defend Internet privacy, "What's more, the European Court recognizes that laws on electronic surveillance must be extra precise because of the great advances in technology." Dempsey is concerned that SORM-2 will enable FSB to activate surveillance at will and that there would be no way for the service provider to know if the government had provided a warrant for surveillance or even if the FSB intercepted communications at all. If the court indeed rules against the FSB, and if the FSB obeys the court, it will be a breakthrough for the cause of privacy. But if Pustintsev is optimistic about the outcome of this case, he is pessimistic about the immediate prospects for democracy in Russia. Building it, he told RFE/RL, is likely to be a task for "our grandchildren." ---------------------------------- Send mail for the 'huridocs-tech' list to 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Mail administrative request to 'email@example.com'. For additional assistance, send mail to: 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Archives of previous messages posted to the list can be found at: http://www.human-rights.net/huridocs-tech.
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