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Russia’s censorship agency files claim against Telegram bot ‘Eye of God’

Source: Kommersant

Russia’s censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, has filed a claim against Evgeny Antipov — the founder of the popular Telegram bot “Eye of God,” which searches online databases for personal information.

Roskomnadzor filed its statement of claim with Moscow’s Tagansky District Court, Kommersant reported on June 30. The claim asks the court to recognize the Telegram channel’s activity as illegal, on the grounds that “Eye of God” violates privacy rights by accessing personal data without people’s consent.

“Eye of God” representative Sergey Kalenik said that the service’s lawyers have already “partially familiarized themselves” with the claim and consider it groundless. “Roskomnadzor isn’t picking up the phone and isn’t answering letters, so we don’t even understand what the complaint is about,” he said. At the same time, Kalenik assured that if the censorship agency does succeed in banning the Telegram bot, its team will offer alternative solutions “strictly within the framework of the requirements of state bodies.”

If the court sides with Roskomnadzor, Russian telecom operators may block the bot, and its administrators will face fines ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 rubles ($820–$1,370) for the illegal processing of personal data. If the court finds a privacy violation, the administrators could face up to five years in prison.

Lawyers interviewed by Kommersant believe that Roskomnadzor is trying to establish a judicial precedent. “It may be required for the future blocking of similar services, in order to stop the development of the ‘probiv’ market,” explains Elena Avakyan, an advisor at the law firm EPAM. She adds that the precedent can form the basis for both civil suits against similar services and the criminal prosecution of their creators. 


In its searches, “Eye of God” uses both open sources and databases illegally leaked online. Roskomnadzor ordered Telegram to block the bot back in March. Although Telegram complied, “Eye of God” set up a mirror platform and resumed operations within a week. At the time, the bot’s administrators announced that they had made its work legal.

After law enforcement raided Evgeny Antipov’s apartment in April, the “Eye of God” founder told the Telegram-based outlet Baza that the platform had deleted all data that could be used to “look into” members of the security forces. 

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