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IT specialists find some of the same privacy violations on the website of Russia's media censor that got Alexey Navalny's voting project blocked

Source: Meduza

Earlier this week, a court in Moscow sided with Russia’s media censor and blocked a website operated by opposition politician Alexey Navalny, ruling that violated Russia’s privacy regulations and abused Google Analytics and Yandex Metrics. Officials say Navalny’s team should have notified users when collecting any personal information, obtained their consent, and provided them with a “published document that states a privacy policy.” Moscow Tagansky District Court judge Olga Sinelnikova ruled that user data legally needs to be stored on servers in Russia, and determined that “Smart Vote” prompts users to share their bank account information to purchase merchandise without disclosing how it handles the information.

A day later, cybersecurity expert Alexander Litreev asked the federal censor (Roskomnadzor) to block the websites of the State Duma, the political party United Russia, and the news outlet (a joint project by the state television networks Rossiya 1 and Rossiya 24), arguing that the three websites violate some of the same privacy rules that did in Navalny’s “Smart Vote” project.

It now seems that Roskomnadzor should also consider blocking itself. IT specialists at Habrahabr have studied the agency’s website and discovered computer scripts from Sputnik and Yandex Metrics that analyze visitors’ personal data, as well as scripts that scan visitors’ computers for the presence of HTTP debugging proxy server applications, like Fiddler. Roskomnadzor’s website doesn't ask users to consent to this data analysis.

In court on December 19, Navalny's representatives acknowledged that Smart Vote might have initially violated Russia's privacy requirements, but argued that the website now features a transparent data-collection agreement and statement of terms. Responding to the court’s decision to block “Smart Voter,” Alexey Navalny has pointed out that the rationale used to justify the ruling would support blocking any website that uses Google Analytics or Yandex Metrics

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. 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 other candidates.

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