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Russia bans VPN services

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

26 July 2017

Last week, the Russian parliament became the latest to ban Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Tor and other proxy services as well as anonymous mobile messaging services.

Citing concerns about the spread of extremist material, the Russian Federation Council passed a bill forcing ISPs to block websites that offer VPN services. The measure passed unanimously.

Russia has already banned access to LinkedIn, Wikipedia and about 1200 other websites and apps under a provision that allows them to limit access to “explicit” content. If a website’s content is deemed “explicit” the website is blocked without notice.

Privacy advocates say that banning VPNs is a move to track and control dissidents and those critical of the Russian government. Russian ISPs are already required to store six months of metadata AND the content of messages for six months, with the metadata alone being stored for a total of three years.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter are also required to store Russian user data on Russian servers, giving the government easy access to it if they deem it necessary.

While this bill has still yet to come into effect, it seems likely that it will. The bill has to pass the upper chamber of parliament and be signed by the president. At that point, it will become law, and would come into effect on January 1st, 2018.

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