Why “Yarovaya law” is a disaster for the Internet in Russia

Why a new draconian law means for the Internet in Russia

By Daria Luganskaia

Some of the harshest legislation in the post-Soviet history of Russia passed the parliament, and if President Vladimir Putin signs it, ISPs and phone companies, among other things, will have to store huge amounts of communications for long periods of time and share this data with the police and security forces.

This set of “anti-terrorist” laws or so-called “Yarovaya law” (named after its author, the deputy Irina Yarovaya [the woman on the picture above]) would change nearly a dozen different laws, including those regulating the Internet. It was approved in Russia despite the internet activists and the telecom and internet industry unprecedentedly united push-back.

The largest Russian internet companies, Yandex and Mail.Ru Group, telecom companies, criticized the legislation. According to the Vice President of Mail.Ru Group Vladimir Gabrielyan, the unprecedented volume of the data being discussed in the legislation would require all the storage manufacturers in the world to sell their products to Russia only for several years. In order to comply with the law, according to him, Mail.Ru Group would spend every year three times more than it makes in net revenue .

Telecom companies calculated that building out everything required by the “Yarovaya law” would cost telecom operators and internet companies more than 5 trillion rubles ($75 billion). To put it into context, Meduza notes, the total revenues in the Russian federal budget were 13.7 trillion rubles in 2015.

Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who fled to Russia in 2013, claimed that this law  will do little to protect Russians from terrorism. “Russia’s new Big Brother law is an unworkable, unjustifiable violation of rights that should never be signed,” he said in a tweet. “This bill will take money and liberty from every Russian without improving safety,” he continued in another tweet.

These criticisms were not taken into account, however.

RuNet Explorer takes a closer look at this important provisions of the “Yarovaya law”.

Everything will be recorded

Telecom providers and social networks, messengers and other platforms for communications called “organizers of online information distribution” (any online resource that allows users to exchange electronic messages) will be required to store recordings of customers’ phone calls, text messages, images, sounds, video, and other messages for up to six months. The exact period will be specified by the government.

The details about a location, a date and other supplementary data about calls and messages (metadata) must be stored much longer – for three years.

Law enforcement agencies will be able to study this data if it is necessary for operational work. This regulation would come into force on July 1, 2018.

Telecom providers would have to build a new expensive infrastructure beforehand to obey the law. Three major telecom providers would have to spend US$780 million (originally 50 billion rubles).

“This paragraph makes no practical sense”

RuNet Explorer talked to the Secretary of the Working Group on International Information Security and Global Internet Governance under PIR Center Advisory Board Oleg Demidov. He believes this paragraph will “simply break the spine” of Russian telecom and internet industry: “The development of broadband in Russia would stop”.

Demidov shares his thoughts in a phone interview from Moscow, the day when the legislation passed the parliament.