Dmitry Medvedev, the highest-ranking Russian official to use social media, banned anonymous access to the Internet in public spaces as his mentor Vladimir Putin tightens control over electronic information flows.
The Russian prime minister, whose Twitter account has 2.4 million followers, signed a document that requires all operators of collective access points or public Wi-Fi to ask users to provide their full names and proof of identity. The personal data must be stored for six months.
Putin, locked in a standoff with the U.S. and Europe over the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine, said in April his government needs to impose greater control over the Internet, which the former KGB colonel called a creation of U.S. spy agencies. Medvedev made innovation and modernization a cornerstone of policy during his presidency in 2008 to 2012, visiting the offices of Twitter Inc., Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. during a trip to the U.S.
Medvedev’s decree complies with amendments approved in May and effective from Aug. 1. Recent legislation requires Internet companies to store Russian users’ information on servers in the country, similar to Chinese regulations, and makes bloggers with more than 3,000 readers as liable for what they publish as media.
Google Inc. (GOOG:US) Chairman Eric Schmidt said last year, as the changes was being proposed, that Russia was “on the path” toward China’s model of Internet censorship.
Customers of Internet cafes and users of publicly offered Wi-Fi will have to provide operators with proof of identity, such as a driving license, by SMS or a special online access form, according to a statement on the Communication Ministry’s website.
The decree is aimed at collective points of access, places where people don’t use their own gadgets with IP-addresses, Deputy Communications Minister Alexei Volin said by phone.
Putin also signed legislation this year setting a limit on anonymous electronic payments at 15,000 rubles ($410) a day and punishing calls through the Internet deemed extremist with as long as five years in prison.
In February, Russia introduced a rule that gives authorities the power to block, without a court ruling, websites found to be either extremist or a threat to the public order. Russia shut access to sites run by Putin opponents, including an opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster and former world champion.
Last month Russia’s Interior Ministry offered a 3.9 million-ruble contract to study how to crack the Tor anonymous network and get technical information on users and their equipment, according to an announcement on the government’s website for state purchases. Edward Snowden, the fugitive ex-U.S. security contract now harbored by Russia, has been a proponent of Tor, which stands for “the onion router.”
Snowden gained a three-year residency permit in Russia after his one-year asylum ran out on July 31, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said yesterday.
Internet services from outside Russia are trying to navigate stricter rules to remain in Europe’s biggest Web market by users. Twitter Inc. (TWTR:US), the San Francisco-based microblogging service said it’s been showing Russian officials how to report illegal content so that it could be withheld in the country, without committing to remove any specific accounts.
To contact the reporters on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at firstname.lastname@example.org; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at firstname.lastname@example.org Torrey Clark, Paul Abelsky