Telia raises ‘surveillance’ concerns over new Russian security legislation

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Telia has sounded the alarm that a new Russian law could have serious impacts on users with respect to freedom of expression and privacy.

The security law, adopted in May 2109 and due to come into force on 1 November 2019, mandates that all operators, install “security threats prevention equipment” on their networks.

The Russian Government will provide the equipment free of charge and will have full control over it, Telia says.

Under the regulation, the Russian government would specify the nature and number of devices to be installed by the operators, including installation and implementation instructions. The law also indemnifies operators from liability following any outages or malfunctions of the network caused by the equipment.

Telia has not yet received a request to install the equipment but expects to soon. The technical details of the equipment are still undefined, including whether it will include deep packet inspection (DPI) or route server capabilities.

“A powerful tool”

A statement from Telia said: “Governments’ security legislation often serves legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression and surveillance privacy.”

Telia’s freedom of expression and surveillance privacy policy states that governments should not have direct access to its networks and systems.  “It is our view that our local companies should retain operational and technical control,” Telia said.

Telia’s statement noted: “Impacts on freedom of expression and surveillance privacy will totally depend upon implementation of the law by the authorities, and decisions by courts. The law, however, defines and grants the authorities with a powerful tool for connectivity and content management.”

It added: “The Policy of Telia Company is not to engage in [the] politics of the countries in which we operate. We do not make political statements when representing our company. However, Telia Company does engage in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and customers.”

Telia said it will collaborate with other companies around the implementation of the new law.