11 August 2020
Lawyers Question Russian Media Watchdog Head's Data Remarks | Pavel Sadovsky for Vedomosti

Text of report by the website of Russian business newspaper Vedomosti on 10 August
[Report by Konstantin Glikin: "Roskomnadzor Proposes Stronger Protection of Personal Data. Such Mechanisms Already Partly Exist, Lawyers Say."]

Andrey Lipov, head of Roskomnadzor [Federal Agency for Oversight in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technology, and the Mass Media], has proposed developing new ways of countering the online dissemination of Russian citizens' personal data. He was speaking at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on 10 August. Lipov believes that to combat the dissemination of [personal] data, both the blocking of websites and the removal of content from websites should be used. "We would like to develop a certain mechanism that would enable people to say, sorry, this information is about my vacation, and although I may be a well-known person, this has nothing to do with public interest. This would at least allow people to have such information removed through the courts," Lipov said.

He recalled that in accordance with [Council of Europe] Convention 108 for the Protection of Individuals With Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, states are entitled to fight inappropriate dissemination and processing of their citizens' personal data even abroad. The Roskomnadzor head said that once such data ends up on the Internet, it is often deemed to be in the public domain: "Many people do not deserve such treatment, and we are often unable to have a fake account purporting to belong to some well-known person closed just like that."

Agora [Russian human rights group] lawyer Damir Gaynutdinov notes that the necessary control mechanisms already exist: "Mr. Lipov does not seem to be aware of the existence of Part 4, Article 152.2 of the Russian Federation Civil Code, which enables citizens to demand the removal of information about their private life (which would generally cover information about their vacations)." The lawyer believes that tougher procedures may well be introduced. They could include, for example, the mandatory preventive blocking of such content or even an extrajudicial procedure for examining such cases.

At his meeting with Putin, Lipov complained that the maximum fine for leaking personal data is too small -- 75,000 roubles [approximately 1,027 dollars] -- which is not commensurate with the damage to the victim or the benefit to the recipients of such leaks. He stressed that the agency wants to propose an increase in the limitation period for such cases (which is currently one year). Gaynutdinov believes that Roskomnadzor's initiatives regarding the removal of negative information from foreign websites will be quite difficult to put into practice, because Roskomnadzor's main instrument in such matters will be a fine.

Pavel Sadovsky, Head of the Intellectual Property Practice at EPAM also believes that the mechanisms under discussion already exist. Sadovskiy thinks that the Roskomnadzor head may have been referring, above all, to the blocking of individual accounts on social media. The lawyer stressed that "in judicial practice, such a mechanism does not work, and the blocking of an entire network in such cases could be judged by the courts to be disproportionate to the violation."

In February 2020, Agora and Roskomsvoboda [Russian digital rights NGO] published a report dealing with restrictions on Internet freedom. The authors of the study recorded 438,981 cases of interference with Internet freedom last year -- fewer than the year before by one-third. However, while the number of cases involving restriction of access to Internet resources sharply fell (from 488,609 to 161,490, mainly due to the authorities easing their crackdown on Telegram), the number of information bans by government agencies has increased more than 10-fold since 2016, from 24,000 to 272,875, with more than 4.74 million Internet resources being subject to "collateral" blocking, the report says. The absolute leader in terms of the number of bans imposed was the Federal Tax Service, which is responsible for the blocking of online casinos: It accounts for 34.8 per cent of all blocks. The Procurator General's Office is in second place (32.4 per cent) and the courts are in third (16 per cent).

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Source: Vedomosti website in Russian 2059 gmt 10 Aug 20

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