One of the more popular ways to protect one’s data and personal information on the internet is by using services called Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. The robust security and relative anonymity they provide is great for law-abiding citizens, but also makes them attractive to criminals. Because of criminal utilization of VPNs, various governments have done their best to regulate and track their usage. Russia is considering doing the same.
VPNs Are Under Attack
There are a few governmental efforts to regulate or outright ban VPNs and proxies. China famously announced that all VPN users — both individual and organizational — would have to register with the government. It now appears that the Russian Federation is considering something like this for its citizens.
The current bill to ban proxies and VPNs has passed the lower house of Russian parliament, the Duma, and needs only to pass the upper chamber and be signed by President Putin. As it currently stands, the bill’s language is incredibly vague for businesses that require the use of VPNs to conduct business and protect their sensitive data as well as the data of their clients.
It is likely that this bill will be presented as a champion for law and order, and that the Russian government will feel that it will help curtail criminal activity. However, the vast majority of people who will be affected by this bill would be law-abiding citizens, as is usually the case with governmental overreach.
Senseless for Business and Freedom
This represents the latest attack on internet freedoms by the Russian government, and they show no signs of slowing down. This bill will likely pass, bringing with it a whole slew of problems. The first is the direct violation of the UN human right guaranteeing privacy to people of the world. Despite what anyone may tell you –government or otherwise — you have the right to a private life. Internet freedoms are personal freedoms, and should not be so callously attacked by fearful governments.
The idiocy of this bill continues to show through in considering its vague and unhelpful language. A lot of businesses, freelancers, and contractors will be put through the wringer thanks to this law. Many companies rely on tunneling their data for security reasons. Let’s take an IT contractor who is employed in Russia: he or she will not always be on site for their jobs, so connecting to a company’s intranet via a VPN only makes business sense. It protects the company from any data breaches and it protects the contractor from putting data at risk. The bill would make it impossible for the contractor to work in a safe manner.
Another example is a company that has many offices spread across different cities. Some of its data may be shared via private networks (VPNs) to ensure data integrity and security. Again, this bill would throw this entire business model into question. By banning the use of VPNs, many companies and contractors will be unable to do their jobs. Sudden and massive unemployment and/or loss of productivity would spell disaster for the already floundering Russian economy. It strikes me that the bill’s authors either did not do their research or are just dead set on violating individual rights.