Russian intelligence agencies may soon have access to the personal data of numerous customers, “Apple” in Russia, as this information technology company has decided to comply with the requirement of the Russian legislation and to store user data on servers inside the country.

The Russian government Agency “Roskomnadzor” exercising control in the sphere of media and telecommunications, for the first time confirmed that the company “Apple” in Russia must comply with the law in 2014, according to which any firm with access to digital data of Russian citizens must process and store them on servers located in Russia. According to the Russian law on counter-terrorism, “Apple” will be forced by the application of intelligence to decode and give them user data.

Products “Apple” of today, can gather vast amounts of information about the life of the company’s customers, but it positions itself as the defender of the confidentiality of this information, and its Director, Tim cook rejects the use of personal data “as a weapon”. In 2016, the information technology giant refused to unlock the iPhone one of the participants in the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, which occurred a year earlier.

However, in China, and now in Russia, “Apple” quietly agreed to comply with local laws, resulting in massive amounts of user data can be in the hands of the state.

In 2017, the company removed the app from China App Store virtual private networks (VPNs), which hide actions for searching and browsing the Internet. Last year, Apple underwent surgery iCloud and encryption keys in Chinese data centres, triggering concerns about the fact that the Chinese authorities will be able to access the messages, mailboxes and data that resides in the cloud.

It is unclear what kind of data Apple will store on their servers in Russia. In the registration documents of the company filed in “Roskomnadzor”, the names, addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers of the called user data, which it processes. In these documents, submitted on 25 Dec, cloud service iCloud where you can store user photos, their videos, documents, contacts and messages, is not mentioned.

“Looks like there hiding something, because “Apple” is, of course, collect more data,” said Sergei Medvedev, working as a senior lawyer at the Moscow law firm “Gorodissky and partners”.

In the Russian legislation there is a wide interpretation of personal data, and this concept includes everything that can be used to identify people and determine their actions. According to Medvedev, which specializiruetsya on the Internet and e-Commerce under the definition of personal data may indirectly get what you want: photos, music, downloaded e-books.

To repeated requests for comment, the company Apple did not respond.

Ambiguous changes in the Russian law on combating terrorism, which came into force last year, demand from Telecom providers for up to six months to preserve the contents of user communications, including text messages, video and audio messages, and give intelligence agencies the right of access to this data without a court order. Human rights activists called the measure of the Russian “Big brother law” and expressed concern about the fact that it will give wide powers to the successor of the KGB, the Federal security service access to the user context, the citizens are without control by legal authorities.

Medvedev said that the act in principle can be extended to service Apple iMessage.

Western companies information technology are reluctant to talk about how they fulfill the requirements of the Russian laws on data storage. In 2016, Russia banned belonging to the Microsoft social network LinkedIn, because she refused to move data processing to the territory of this country. This prohibition was interpreted as a warning shot indicating the potential consequences of non-compliance with the Russian laws.

This month “Roskomnadzor” began a legal battle against companies “Twitter” and “Facebook”, accusing them that they failed to notify him about actions taken in compliance with the requirements of the law. Last year the head of the Agency Alexander Zharov, told the Russian news Agency “Interfax” that “Roskomnadzor” received from “Tvittera” the assurance that he will process the data of Russian users inside the country.

Zharov already hinted at the possibility of a ban of social network Facebook if the company will not process the data of Russian users inside Russia. In February, his Department intends to test an Apple for compliance with the law.

Revelatory messages of Edward Snowden about the extensive surveillance of the US online has forced many governments to do a thorough verification of how the data is stored their citizens, and how to access them. Last year in the European Union came into force new laws on data protection and has imposed strict rules for handling and storage collect online personal information.

The requirement of Russia to store data within the country is only part of the ambitious attempts of the authorities to take the Internet under their control. When Vladimir Putin in 2012 he returned to the presidency in Moscow, mass protests began, and since then, authorities have adopted a series of laws restricting freedom of speech on the Internet.

Because of the wide interpretation of the term “extremism” in Russian law, dozens of people were arrested and convicted for posts on social networks criticized the annexation of the Crimea, the Russian military campaign in Syria and to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Last year, the Crimean Tatar activist was given two years probation for what he reposted a video of Ukrainian volunteer military formation, accompanied by his commentary: “Crimea was, is and always will be Ukrainian!” The vast majority of countries consider the Russian annexation of Crimea is illegal under international law, however, the 2013 law criticism of this territorial takeover in Russia is considered a crime as a call for separatism.

The aim is not to control information exchange millions of Russian users on the Internet. “They don’t have the technical ability to spy on every with the aim of collecting such data. It is absolutely impossible,” — said the author of journalistic investigations Andrei Soldatov, who wrote the book “the Red web” of online surveillance in Russia. Rather, it is a method of intimidation, to enable authorities to exert pressure selectively.

“They have a rich Arsenal of various means, and they choose the best tool for a crackdown,” said Tanya Lokot, working as an associate Professor in the University of Dublin and is studying the questions of Internet freedom and governance in Russia.

In the spring of last year, Russia tried to block the messenger Telegram, which refused to give intelligence agencies access to encrypted user messages. These actions of the authorities by mistake temporarily blocked more than 15 million Russian web-site, where the connection goes through servers, “Amazon” and “Google”.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov has accused Apple that it has blocked updates to the app abroad after Russian authorities ordered to remove it from the App Store.

Evidence of selective application of Russian laws on the Internet has become the statement of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Putin’s press Secretary, who at that time admitted that they have on phones Telegram is still working fine.

“In Soviet times there was a joke: the severity of the Soviet laws is softened by the fact that to comply with them necessarily,” said Elbow.

But it seems that the Kremlin is trying to change this situation.

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