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Russia Has Officially Prohibited VPNs That Anonymize Users, After China Tightened Internet Restrictions

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The social media has been agog with human rights group condemning Russia for infringing on human rights to internet privacy.  Vladimir Putin, Russian president has signed a bill that legally prohibits VPNs and other technologies that anonymize users which is to take effect on November 1. This comes after Apple had removed most major VPN apps from its store in China.

The other law to ban anonymous use of online messaging services will take effect on Jan 1, 2018.

The idea behind this internet restriction episode is to invade citizens’ browsing habits as revealed by an internet security expert.

According to the Russian state news agency, Leonid Kevin, the head of the Duma’s information committee disclosed that the law signed by the Russian President Vladmir Putin is to intercept access to unlawful content other than restricting it from “law-abiding citizens”.

In retrospect, there are no new restrictions nor censorship. “My colleague only included the restriction of access to information that is already forbidden by law or a court decision”, he said.

Nevertheless, Human rights activists will have none of the country’s defenses. Since the ban of various websites under Russia’s internet restriction and child protection rules, as well as materials that promote extremist content, the activists have still condemned the Russian state for infringing on human rights.

The human activists have expressed their displeasure towards the country’s decision. For them, the decision to snoop on citizens browsing habit is merely a charade to censor criticism of the government.

It appears that the government is more concerned about internet users masking their real identity to access censored or blocked website which has raised security concerns.

In a mail by Jim Killock, executive director of the UK digital rights campaign, Open Rights Group, to CNBC, he said:

“VPNs  can help people freely access the internet without their browsing being observed by their Internet provider. People can also use them to access censored and blocked content. Laws that criminalize the use of privacy a enhancing technologies like VPNs are incredibly dangerous and will restrict right to privacy, free expression and access to information.”

According to Dr. Joss Wright at the Oxford Internet Institute, the restriction move is part of the trend against privacy-protecting technologies that appeared to be “accelerating around the world”.

He sited further that apart from the disturbing issues associated with the use of VPN services, “companies and businesses use them for remote work-people overseas accessing corporate networks”.

Similarly, the UK metropolitan police has encouraged the use of VPNs for accessing public Wi-Fi after  it released a cyber security advice video. This is to prevent hackers from peeking through people’s browsing data.

In all, it appears that the Russian government is more concerned about protecting the government’s image. The only way to achieve this, is to have the power to snoop through citizens’ browsing habits.

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