Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

WSJ Europe on SORM

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Date:          Tue, 20 Apr 1999 08:18:29 -0400
From:          Dave Banisar <>
Subject:       WSJ Europe on SORM
To:            Global Internet Liberty Campaign <>

WSJE CEER: Ideas And Trends --- Russia: E-Spooks

  From The Wall Street Journal Europe
  Next time you think a Net community is getting a raw deal, spare a
thought for the Russians.
  Under a proposal code-named "SORM," Russian secret police want to
monitor - in real-time - every e-mail message and Web page sent or
received by Russians.
  Russia's Ministry of Justice is still considering the idea. Drafts
of the project (published on the Internet by a Russian techie who
obtained the document) would force all providers of Internet services
to install tracking devices on their equipment, as well as build
special links connecting their businesses to the Russian security
service, the FSB, the successor to the KGB. SORM, an acronym for
"system for ensuring investigative activity," is now being widely
discussed in Russia's Internet community, and in none-too-friendly
  Today, the FSB is allowed to monitor Internet traffic, provided it
gets a warrant similar to the one needed to set up phone taps or open
letters. Russians tend to be suspicious of the FSB, and are not
anxious to see the agency's powers expanded dramatically. The fear:
the organization will spy on all types of commercial and private
activity, as the KGB did in the past.
  Internet companies also are fretting about who will foot the bill.
The SORM draft demands that company connections to
  FSB be faster than even current links between Internet service
providers and customers. "It is not clearly defined {about who pays}
but I suspect it would be the Internet service provider's burden,"
says Michael Novikov, marketing manager at Arcadia Inc., a Russian
software development house.
  Though the cost probably wouldn't put anyone out of business, 
companies are lobbying to make sure the FSB, not the businesses, pays
the bill, says Andrei Kolesnikov, director of Russia Online, a leading
Russian Internet service provider. "Right now, people are basically in
negotiations," he says. "I don't think anything will happen soon. I
think there will be a compromise."
  Mr. Kolesnikov says he isn't so worried that SORM would be a 
full-fledged invasion of privacy on the Internet. Even if SORM is
enacted, users can still hide their message traffic with special
encryption codes. "The amount of traffic is so huge on the Internet
that they will never be able to monitor much of it," he adds. "It's
not a question of Big Brother coming in and looking at everything on
the Internet. They simply don't have the resources to do that."
  Other countries have looked into ways of snooping on the Internet.
In the U.S., the federal government has Web users up in arms over
plans to keep copies of encryption keys in what they classify as safe
depositories that would be made available should the FBI, CIA or
National Security Agency get court approval. But no major Western
governments has asked Internet providers to install a direct link to
security headquarters.
  (END) DOW JONES NEWS  04-19-99
  12:19 AM

Copyright 1999 Dow Jones & Co., Inc.  All rights reserved.
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