A pending "anti-terrorism" bill in the Duma would require all apps to contain backdoors to allow the secret police to spy on the country's messaging, in order to prevent teenagers from being "brainwashed" to "murder police officers."
Senator Yelena Mizulina, who supports the bill, has also mooted requiring all message traffic to be approved by national censors before it is passed on.
If the bill passes, it will be an important moment in the new crypto wars. On the one hand, it will show that even an autocratic state can't prevent encrypted communications. Users will just download apps, ROMs and tools from non-Russian sites in order to avail themselves of unbreakable crypto), proving CIA director John Brennan wrong.
On the other hand, it will set the bar for the kind of government actually passes this kind of law, giving Americans and Britons who oppose backdoors a powerful rhetorical tool to use in the date.
Finally, it will test the resolve of tech giants like Facebooks, Apple and Google, who want to avail themselves of Russia's markets, but in order to do so would have to put themselves under Russian jurisdiction. Ever since Yahoo's entry to China, more than a decade ago, Silicon Valley has been trading putting sales offices in totalitarian states for access to emerging markets. As returns from those markets decline, and the security demands on companies increase, the tradeoff is getting more precarious.
Russian Senator Yelena Mizulina argued that the new bill ought to become law because, she said, teens are brainwashed in closed groups on the internet to murder police officers, a practice protected by encryption. Mizulina then went further.
"Maybe we should revisit the idea of pre-filtering [messages]," she said. "We cannot look silently on this."
Russian bill requires encryption backdoors in all messenger apps
[Patrick Howell O'Neill/Daily Dot]
(Image: Moscow 05-2012 Kremlin 23, © A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons)