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Rostelecom proposed to collect digital traces of Russians citizens

The Russian major telecommunication operator, providing different telecommunication services in Russia, has proposed to collect so called “digital traces” of Russian citizens under the control of Russian state. In other words the monopolist Rostelecom want control almost all aspects of life of Russian citizens.

The operator did not state directly that it wants to receive control, but it is only one major monopolist in telecommunication sector under control and ownership of Russian state. In addition to digital traces the operator has also proposed to develop technologies of speech and face recognition.

The operator has drafted and sent to the Russian ministry of communication the so called road map, containing above mentioned proposals. Besides, the operator proposes to develop Russian messengers, internet browsers and operation systems. The most remarkable thing is that these proposals or initiatives supposes allocation a lot, a really a lot of money from state budget.

All these proposals forming so called “list of end-to-end technologies” for federal national project “Digital economic”. Thanks to realization of this road map the state would control all aspects of internet activity not only Russian citizens, but all people engaging in Russian segment of digital environment.

According to the road map the state should control the development of different technologies, including speech and gesture recognition, content recommendation, computer graphic, virtual and augmented reality, and already mentioned messengers (perhaps in a counterbalance to Viber, WhatsApp or Telegram), browsers (perhaps in counterbalance to Opera, Mazilla or Internet Explorer, or even TOR), operational systems (there are already Russian operational systems, but in some aspects similar to foreign) and gaming services (there are already Russian major gaming providers, developers and platforms working from abroad and providing its services in Russian internal market – again – abroad).

The point of road map is senseless from competition aspect. There already was failed attempt to create national search engine under the auspices of Russian state. It was supposed to be a competitor or even substitute to Google and other famous foreign search engines. A lot of money, really a lot of money, has been wasted to this project.

In Russia there are almost two major search engines – Yandex and Google, and also not so widespread among users – DuckDuckGo. But from other aspect there is main point – the proposal to create a platform, where all digital traces of users (Russian citizens and any other person, who leaves digital trace in Russia) are to be collected.

This main point supposes to improve monitoring and control over the Russian segment of internet. If the Russian authorities would decide to block any extra-internet, in other words to cut off Russia from outside internet, and only leave the Russian segment of internet. Whether it is possible with modern technologies it is the other question.

The road map insists that control over digital traces and internet would positively affect the economic and social stability. Besides, as always, among the other arguments is fighting with fake news and negative influence from foreign organizations. The price is 52 bln Roubles from state budget and 207 bln Roubles off-budget investments.

The stake holders believe thanks to implementation of such proposals the Russian state would have opportunity to deeply analyze the private life of citizens. The Russian constitution does not allow it. But the main purpose of this proposal, according to the Rostelecom president is “to be ready to the problems created from the outside”.

But the industry professionals believe the claimed sum, necessary for implementation of road map, is just wasting of money and, what the most important, such initiatives could provide additional authorities to the state-owned telecommunication operator, who would know almost everything about internet users.

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