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Apple Could Get Dragged into Russia's new Internet Bill

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In April we reported on two stats from Apple's financial conference call regarding Russia. The first was that Russia was in the top five countries for App Store downloads in calendar Q1; the second was that Apple's business grew 97% in Russia in Q1. Apple opened their online Apple Store in Russia last summer but that could be jeopardized over the next 18 months. Today we've learned that the Russian Parliament has passed a bill requiring internet companies to store Russians' personal data inside the country in an apparent move to pressure sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter into handing over user data. Yet depending on the language in the bill, it could easily apply to Apple who stores Russian consumer data from the Apple Store in the US.


The Russian news report states that by introducing the bill to parliament this week, MP Vadim Dengin said that "most Russians don't want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where it can be hacked and given to criminals."


Political hackeryand hypocrisy exude from that particular statement considering that two Russian nationals were added to the FBI cyber criminals most wanted list in 2013. One is wanted for hacking US based firms and stealing confidential data including employee identities, while the other one is wanted for infecting PCs in more than 100 countries. In 2005, the Russian Police bragged that their hackers were the best in the world. Yet under the umbrella of the Snowdon revelations about the NSA, they're able to spin the recent events in their favor to justify the passing of this latest internet related bill.


The Russian news report further noted that the bill would also increase pressure on social networking services which do not have offices in Russia and have become a vital resource for anti-government groups.


Both Facebook and Twitter refuse to hand over user data to governments. Just three days before the bill was formally proposed last month, Twitter's public policy Chief Colin Crowell visited Russia to speak with media watchdog Roskomnadzor. Few details of the visit were publicised, but access to user data is thought to have been on top of the list.


Russia is also asking Twitter to open a local office, which the company has so far refused to do.


The new bill would not come into force until September 2016 but would potentially provide the government with grounds to block sites that do not comply.


On the flipside, that could cause major problems for Russian companies, such as airlines that rely on foreign-based online booking services.


Hastily passed by the Duma, where it was only introduced in late June, the bill must still be approved by the upper chamber and President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.


Andrei Soldatov, a journalist who tracks Russia's security services stated that he thought that the Russian authorities are out to make these high profile US Companies relocate their servers to Russia. "For the most part, this is directed against Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter," he added.


Google is noted in the report as stating that they need more time to study the final version of the law before commenting.


Although Apple and other high profile technology companies are likely to get snared by Russia's latest internet bill, it is companies like Google and other social networks that are going to be on the frontlines.


In many court cases today in the US, getting warrants to obtain user Google searches is now common. It was recently revealed that Ross and Leanna Harris both searched child deaths inside vehicles in their preliminary trial. Whether their searches were preventative or nefarious in nature is unknown at this time without knowledge of an accurate timeline. Yet in the case of Russia, a country with a history of supressing their citizenry, having the ability to use Google and Twitter search results to imprison dissenters is really what many fear is behind this new bill.


On the other hand, the timing of the bill by Russia's Duma comes after the German Government ended their Verizon contract with their Interior Ministry citing security concerns amid U.S. spying disclosures. By taking advantage of the timing of the German Government's decision, it almost makes the Russian bill seem "reasonable," and that's the fear.


A key claim by Edward Snowden — was that his unmasking of government spying programs has not hurt anyone to date and that is evidently naïve. Yet in reality, his revelations are hurting US companies all over the world as witnessed by the recent case in Germany. It'll also give countries like Russia enough ammunition to begin their attacks on all American companies and even Apple won't be able to escape the reach of this new bill if it's passed into law.


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