VimpelCom, MegaFon and MTS are arguing a new law that gives the government wide-ranging surveillance powers could leave the mobile industry facing a bill for $34 billion, on top of damaging civil liberties.
The three operators have come together in opposition to a bill which was signed into law by Russian president Vladimir Putin last week. It becomes effective from 20 July, reports the Financial Times.
The law compels the three operators to store all their users’ voice, text and internet activity for six months. They must also keep the traffic’s metadata, which describes when and where users communicated, for a period of three years.
Operators claim the new law will massively increase their data storage requirement, costing them RUB2.2 trillion ($34 billion) to comply with the legislation.
Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower who is now resident in Moscow, joined in the criticism. He tweeted “Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia”.
He followed up with another tweet: “Signing the #BigBrother law must be condemned. Beyond political and constitution consequences, it is also a $33b+ tax on Russia’s internet.”
Search giant Yandex said the law will limit the rights of both companies and individual users.
Russia is hardly alone in passing legislation that compels operators to store data for future scrutiny by security services, but this legislation appears particularly hardline.
It is also possible that the figure offered by the operators is the worst case scenario and final implementation might not be so costly. Or even that a compromise could be reached with the government before the deadline for implementing the law in July 2018.
MegaFon CEO Sergey Soldatenkov suggested to newspaper Kommersant last week that the government could instead impose an additional 1 per cent tax on operators’ revenue and use the proceeds to build its own data centre, rather than requiring the mobile industry to do all the work.