updated 10:25 am EDT, Fri April 8, 2011
Russia threatens blocks on Gmail and Skype
The lead for the FSB security agency's information group Alexander Andreyechkin on Friday proposed banning Gmail, Hotmail, and Skype in Russia. He complained that the brunt of the traffic on these sites wasn't managed within Russia and allegedly made them a haven for 'extremist' groups. Without filters, using these services could lead to a "massive threat" to the nation's security, he claimed.
Deputy Communications Minister Ilya Massukh added later that the call for a ban was because security officials couldn't as easily spy on people's messages. The attitude paralleled India's complaints against RIM where it has been frustrated that a good security mechanism didn't let it snoop on residents' messages.
Recommendations on requirements for encrypted messages are expected to go to the government on October 1.
It's not entirely clear that the FSB understands the nature of services like Skype. As the VoIP service works on a peer-to-peer network with nodes and "supernodes" of users providing local contact, much of their data from Russian users would originate from and pass through Russia. However, it might be frustrated at the relative difficulty of intercepting the voice code.
The restrictions could have a chilling effect both on economic relations and foreign technology in Russia. Government leaders in Russia have called the country a "managed democracy" and have often tried to discourage dissent or private speech, but the new restrictions would make it hard to use some of the largest communications services in the world. Google would likely react more harshly than most since co-founder Sergey Brin emigrated from the Soviet Union and has often pushed for company policy, such as the exit from China, to reflect a respect for civil liberties.