Russia to monitor all communications during Winter Olympics
No doubt, the Kremlin will be listening in to discover all the plots to demonstrate against their anti-gay laws.
Athletes and spectators attending the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February will face some of the most invasive and systematic spying and surveillance in the history of the Games, documents shared with the Guardian show.
Russia's powerful FSB security service plans to ensure that no communication by competitors or spectators goes unmonitored during the event, according to a dossier compiled by a team of Russian investigative journalists looking into preparations for the 2014 Games.
In a ceremony on Red Square on Sunday afternoon, the president, Vladimir Putin, held the Olympic flame aloft and sent it on its epic journey around the country, saying Russia and its people had always been imbued with the qualities of "openness and friendship", making Sochi the perfect destination for the Olympics.
But government procurement documents and tenders from Russian communication companies indicate that newly installed telephone and internet spying capabilities will give the FSB free rein to intercept any telephony or data traffic and even track the use of sensitive words or phrases mentioned in emails, webchats and on social media.
The journalists, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, who are experts on the Russian security services, collated dozens of open source technical documents published on the Zakupki government procurement agency website, as well as public records of government oversight agencies. They found that major amendments have been made to telephone and Wi-Fi networks in the Black Sea resort to ensure extensive and all-permeating monitoring and filtering of all traffic, using Sorm, Russia's system for intercepting phone and internet communications.
"For example you can use the keyword Navalny, and work out which people in a particular region are using the word Navalny," says Soldatov, referring to Alexei Navalny, Russia's best-known opposition politician. "Then, those people can be tracked further."
Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of Citizen Lab, which co-operated with the Sochi research, describes the Sorm amendments as "Prism on steroids", referring to the programme used by the NSA in the US and revealed to the Guardian by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. "The scope and scale of Russian surveillance are similar to the disclosures about the US programme but there are subtle differences to the regulations," says Deibert. "We know from Snowden's disclosures that many of the checks were weak or sidestepped in the US, but in the Russian system permanent access for Sorm is a requirement of building the infrastructure."
Old line commies from the days of the Soviet Union are probably swooning after reading this, cursing the fates for not inventing this stuff when they really could have used it. Of course, the only difference between Putin and Stalin is that Vlad dresses better and doesn't have a cheesy mustache.
But as for the rest, is it surprising that there's a lack of outrage being expressed by those who pilloried the US after the Snowden revelations? The Russians don't even pretend to respect privacy and given the scope of their snooping, you might expect the same characters who got on the anti-American soap box following the release of information on NSA spying throw a few darts at Putin.
No doubt the euro left is busy organizing demonstrations against Putin for this egregious violation of individual rights.