April 18-24, 2015
Russia blocks Lurkmore for the third time
Roskomnadzor, Russian Internet and Media watchdog, restricted access to Lurkmore.to for the third time this year. Lurkmore is a popular Russian Internet encyclopedia. Roskomnadzor requires the removal of information about a cough syrup “Tussin” because the article describes its hallucinogenic effects. Lurkmore founder Dmitry Homak says that Roskomnadzor required the removal of not only the offending article on the main website, but also on a Lurkmore mirror site as well. Problematically, Mr. Homak has no connection to the mirror site whose content Roskomnadzor is holding him responsible for. The main site and the mirror site are currently inaccessible. Mr. Homak says that Lurkmore will restrict access to all Roskomnadzor-identified illegal articles for visitors from Russian. The bigger question is whether or not Roskomnadzor will hold Lurkmore responsible for the actions of a site that acts outside of the control of Lurkmore.
Ukraine to introduce SIM-card owners identification
The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine requested the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection (SSSCIP) develop a legislative proposal to establish a system of compulsory identification of all mobile users. This legislation will require mobile operators to require identity documents to use a SIM card. Currently, it is possible to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM-card without providing any ID documents, Kievstar’s Director of Corporate Clients Mikhail Shuranov states that over 40% of SIM-cards are anonymous. This has national-security concerns; authorities claim that pro-Russian forces in the Donbass are using anonymous SIM-cards to share information about the location and movements of the Ukrainian army. Mobile operators note that requiring documents from users may negatively affect the market because it will necessitate modifications to the distribution system and lead to higher expenses when opening official stores making it difficult for customers in remote locations to purchase cards. Mr. Shuranov underlines that Kievstar hopes the legislation is properly developed implemented in a responsible manner.
Azerbaijan launches additional e-services
Azerbaijan is improving its e-government accessibility by launching new services. The e-government portal will provide three new services to its users: two tax-related services and requesting higher-education documents. The Cabinet of Ministers made a decision to extend the list of e-services adding an option to submit tax declaration online and an option to submit applications for deadline extension for VAT statements and income tax statements. The e-government portal is now the key instrument of cooperation between the government, citizens, and private sector. Electronic services facilitate the use of government services and facilitate the work of individuals and businesses.
Russia considering broadening definition of personal data to include metadata
On April 20th Igor Shchegolev, Assistant to President Putin, noted in a meeting with Roskomnadzor that the notion of personal data must cover users online activities such as geotags, history of visited websites, online search history, and online activities, including what users do on social networks. Shchegolev noted that this information shows a user’s everyday habits and allows companies to use it for marketing purposes. In his view, collection and use of such data should be regulated and protected. Current legislation regulates the information that is specifically considered personal data, but outside of ‘other information,’ there is no mention of online data. Alexander Zharov, Head of Roskomnadzor, will review Shchegolov’s proposal. While some countries do have similar legislation, there are concerns that it will impact Russia’s 3.2bn RUR (approximately 62mn USD) advertising industry.
Belarus to launch 4G LTE network
On April 21st, Velcom, the leading mobile operator in Belarus, announced its plan to launch a 4G LTE network by the end of 2015. 4G LTE is the fourth generation of mobile telecommunications technology which provides faster and higher-quality mobile broadband Internet access. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D television, and cloud computing. The company still has to apply for a licence to introduce the technology in Belarus. Connection speed on 4G LTE is 30 times higher than on 3G, currently the fastest mobile telecommunications technology operating in Belarus. Consumers will be happy; Velcom claims that this will not change its price policy.
Apple stops paying royalties to Russian developers
On April 19th, Russian app developers received official letters from Apple informing them that the company will no longer be able to pay them royalties for the app sales if their main accounts are in any of the 11 Russian banks covered by Western sanctions. Apple informed developers that they can receive royalties if they open accounts in banks not affected by the sanctions. This is not the first time that sanctions have affected the ICT industry in Russia; in December 2014, President Obama introduced a ban on Crimean operations for all US companies. Developers worry about their future cooperation with Western companies and the impact sanctions will have on app development in Russia.