Kremlin gives Russian special services full access to users' cellular geolocation data

The Russian Ministry of Digital Development has prepared amendments to the Communications Act, which will allow the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Federal Protective Service (FSO) to obtain data on the location of users' mobile devices from telecom operators without a court decision.

The text of the document was published by the telegram channel OrderCom and later confirmed by the news website Kommersant.

The Ministry of Digital Development stated that the information listed in the draft does not relate to the privacy of communication. According to the Ministry of Digital Development, the information should be made available to the authorities conducting operational and investigative activities; this "will have a positive impact on the provision of communications services, giving them greater transparency and clarity in enforcement," the explanatory note to the project reads.

In addition to the geolocation of subscribers, the security forces will have access to the data on the volume of services and their cost.

Russian Law enforcement agencies could obtain such information without a court order before, but formally the issue was in the gray zone, said Dmitry Lipin, a member of the legal commission for the digital economy of the Moscow branch of the Russian Bar Association.

The Ministry’s  amendments will legitimize existing practice. As a result, the regulatory gap will be removed, Lipin said.

If the proposed amendments are adopted, the concept of the privacy of communication in Russia will disappear altogether, said Mikhail Klimarev, executive director of the Internet Protection Society.

Having information about the location of subscribers, the security forces will be able to easily monitor the movements of a particular person. For example, you can compare information about the geolocation of mobile devices with data from CCTV cameras, explains Eldar Murtazin, a leading analyst at Mobile Research Group.

Courts in the regions sometimes did not accept this information, doubting whether or not such information falls under the privacy of communication act, he says. If the draft of the Ministry is adopted, the judges will no longer have any doubts.

  FSB, Kremlin, Russia