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Citing privacy concerns, federal censor blocks Alexey Navalny's online project to defeat United Russia in regional elections

Meduza

On orders from Russia’s federal censor, Internet service providers across the country started blocking Alexey Navalny’s “Smart Vote” project on Friday, three days after Moscow’s Tagansky District Court ruled that the site’s domain name registrar, the French company “Gandi SAS,” violates privacy protection laws.

When registering at Smart Vote, participants are asked for the following information: name, email, telephone number, address, voting district, and age bracket. Users must also consent to “the processing of their personal data.”

According to Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky (against whom police just dropped felony embezzlement charges), multiple citizens registered complaints against “Smart Vote,” claiming that the site processed their personal data without their consent. Roskomnadzor says it investigated Navalny’s site and found that the user agreement form did not comply with Russian data laws and lacked a privacy policy entirely. The user data retrieved through the website, moreover, was stored abroad, which is illegal in Russia.

In late November, Russian anti-corruption activist and opposition politician Alexey Navalny unveiled his latest project to undermine the Kremlin’s control over the Russian government. The new initiative, “Smart Vote,” will offer voting instructions in regional elections to maximize the odds of defeating the country’s ruling political party, United Russia. The project will be active for next year's gubernatorial race in St. Petersburg and Moscow's City Duma election.

Smart Vote is based on the fact that United Russia candidates often win elections with just 30-35 percent of the votes in a particular race, while the majority of votes are scattered among candidates. Adapting the strategy he popularized in 2011, Navalny is now asking United Russia’s opponents to rally around whichever other candidate has the best chance of winning. Navalny’s team says it will identify this candidate in every race.

“Understandably, there will always be debate on this issue, but our analysis will be honest and objective, and we’ll explain our selections, so most voters agree,” Navalny said in a video announcing the project.