Digital sovereignty of Russia – collection of user data on the Internet?
There are many films and books – from “The Terminator” to “Darwin’s Mission” – devoted to the theme “artificial intelligence is taking over the world through the revolt of machines.” Sooner or later, much of science fiction comes true. And now, the notorious “artificial intelligence” is scattering its tentacles across the planet. Here are just without the uprising of soulless machines – and stand behind the back of “artificial intelligence” quite alive people, made of flesh and blood …
History of Facebook – the path to global domination
The Russian superhero action movie Defenders (2017) shows a human-led “uprising of the machines”. Instead of artificial intelligence, a villainous scientist is behind the revolt of heavy military equipment and cyborgs. In reality, however, the cyber villains do not rely on control over equipment that can be defeated by the enemy’s army, but on control over people. This is really easier and, paradoxically, more effective. And you don’t even need to invent anything – everything has already been invented. Moreover, even initially, these developments were started with quite good goals.
In the early 2000s, the first social networks began to appear. It all began quite decorously and nobly: on February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard dorm roommates – Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes – developed Facebook. An interesting fact – the social network appeared as a result of a drunken party.
The site was originally called Thefacebook and was only available to Harvard University students. Then registrations were opened for other Boston universities. And then for students of any educational institutions in the United States, who have an email address in the .edu domain. Since September 2006, the platform has become available to all Internet users over 13 years old and who have an email address.
Further – communication of “everyone with everyone” in the format of social networks began to develop rapidly all over the planet.
By the end of the 2000s, there were many social networks in the world. There were different leaders in different countries – MySpace, Orkut, Hi5, Friendster, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, Moi Mir … Facebook itself, having started with several thousand users in 2004, has grown to several billion by now active users per month in 2020. Facebook is the largest social network in the world today. And on its board of directors were employees of the American special services and the Pentagon. Just like their Twitter counterparts.
How did such a powerful take-off take place and why did counterintelligence officers and the military end up in the ranks of non-core organizations?
Although Facebook is by far the most popular social network in many countries, it still hasn’t taken off in a number of places on the planet. Following popular wisdom – “It’s better to see once than hear a hundred times” – let’s look at the history of his ascent graphically, comparing the most popular social networks of different countries in the period from 2008 to 2020 (the data is based on the analysis of annual traffic by companies Vincos.it, Alexa and SimilarWeb).
Four years later, after the Facemash for Harvard University students emerged from Mark Zuckerberg’s “late-night drunk project”, Facebook spread around the world, but did not occupy such vast territories. Until 2008, the Internet landscape was inhabited by the pioneers of social networks – Myspace and Hi5, Orkut was the most popular social network in Brazil and India, and Friendster found a foothold in Southeast Asia.
But the Facebook wave began to gradually turn into a tsunami. By 2009, it had become the most popular social network in large parts of the Americas, Europe, South Asia and Oceania. Brazilian Orkut was the only dissenter in this campaign and resisted until 2011.
A similar situation was and it seemed all far from digital technologies in Africa. Facebook’s dominance across the continent has come with mixed success. For example, 2017 saw a temporary surge in LinkedIn in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya and Cameroon.
By the beginning of 2020, Facebook has become the leading social network in 151 out of 167 countries – where traffic volumes were measured – and this is more than 90% of the world’s population.
Still, Facebook today “has in its assets” a fly in the ointment in its “muzzle-book” barrel of honey.
So, the most popular social network in China from the mid-2000s to the present is Qzone (Tencent company). Facebook tried to gain ground in the Middle Kingdom, but was banned in 2009.
In Iran, Facebook was also blocked in 2009. The most popular social networks in this country are the local Cloob and Facenama.
In Russia and in most of the post-Soviet space, Facebook also continues to suffer a fiasco, although the social network is not blocked – dominance by VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, owned by the Russian Internet giant Mail.ru.
It is also worth noting that a number of large corporations are boycotting Facebook ads in connection with the flurry of accusations of this social network in the distribution of deliberately false and destructive content.
Facebook is also expanding its presence in mobile apps, with 2 billion and 1.2 billion active users of digital giant Instagram and the world’s most popular messenger WhatsApp in 2020, respectively.
According to its own estimates, Facebook – report for the III quarter of 2020 – its main products are used by more than 3.2 billion people monthly. That is, 40% of the world’s population – 7.8 billion people as of December 2020. Facebook is also struggling to reach a younger audience that prefers Snap and TikTok.
In fact, today Facebook, Twitter and TikTok have become virtual quasi-states. And proceeding from the thesis of a number of political scientists that “there is no Motherland on the Internet” and analyzing the current state of affairs, a very ominous situation in a beautiful wrapper turns out. These quasi-states today direct all their enormous forces, resources and capabilities to influence the thoughts of people, and also seek to arrogate to themselves a monopoly on violence, which belongs to the authorities of these countries. Plus, behind their backs are the governments of states that have not been noticed in a special love for Russia.
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Social networks in Russia: dissemination of destructive information
On February 25, 2020, the initiative group of members of the Public Chamber (OP) and the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) presented a rating of Internet platforms that violate the law in terms of the dissemination of destructive content. The first place in the anti-rating of social networks was taken by Twitter, the second position was taken by Facebook, and the third was by Instagram. Next came YouTube, TikTok, VKontakte and Odnoklassniki.
“Russia surrounded by foreign social networks” – illustration by Andrey Tarusov from his “Russian Calendar – 2019”. Andrey Tarusov is a Russian artist and animator based in Los Angeles: “I have always had a strong passion for pin-ups, comics and animation. After studying at VGIK, I worked for 10 years in the field of illustration and animation at many enterprises. ” Among his clients are Disney, 20th Century Fox, Playboy, Rolling Stones, TIME, MTV, Yandex, Beeline and other large companies and media. Watch and read the interview with Andrey Tarusov in the Exiterra business blog in the near future.
The Chamber emphasized that when compiling the rating, “the amount of unlawful content not deleted, the presence or absence of the site’s representative office in Russia, the willingness to interact with the regulator and the speed of reaction to complaints from users and supervisory agencies were taken into account. … An additional indicator was the politicization of social networks – the number of cases of blocking or restricting access to accounts that do not violate the legislation of the Russian Federation, but were subject to political censorship. ” Ekaterina Mizulina, a member of the RF OP, director of the Safe Internet League, explained that when compiling the rating, all major social networks were monitored, illegal content was identified on all sites: “Twitter is a persistent violator of Russian legislation. This platform systematically violates Russian legislation, while resorting to double standards: on the one hand, it is not engaged in the fight against the dissemination of prohibited information in Russia, on the other hand, the persecution of Russian users of the platform for completely incomprehensible reasons. … The situation tells us that the regulation of foreign platforms does not force them to leave the local market, they are interested in preserving it. As soon as the authorities start talking about slowing traffic, fines for IT giants, they begin to listen. No attempts to reach an agreement, threats do not work, but only the inevitability of punishment works. A real threat to revenues can force IT companies to meet halfway. ”
Prohibited information in Russia includes materials with pornographic images of minors, information that inclines children to commit dangerous illegal actions. It also includes data on the methods of making and using drugs, methods of committing suicide and calling for it.
Also, on February 1, 2021, Federal Law No. 530-FZ “On Amendments to the Federal Law” On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection “” and, within 24 hours, block any content containing obscene language.
Related article – Principles and operation of the new law banning obscene language in social networks and regulating their activities
Loss of digital sovereignty: what are the threats and prerequisites
The IT essence has permeated our life through and through – smartphones, tablets, gadgets and computers connected to the Internet have become an integral part of our being. Broadband internet has become as basic a necessity as hot water, sewerage and heating in your home. Moreover, in some regions of the world and in our country, access to the “web” has become primary. Households can be heated with wood-burning stove heating, but at the same time use quite modern fiber-optic communication.
It seems that all this is good and wonderful. But! The problem is that this entire cybernetic ecosystem does not belong to Russia. The entire multimedia Internet space around us is divided between the United States and China.
More than 60% of all domains on the Internet are owned by American companies. Plus, more than 50% of global video / audio content delivery networks also have US owners. Transnational giants like Google and Facebook are now competing on an equal footing with global governments. Let us recall the recent story of the blocking of Twitter by President Donald Trump – in this case, the private IT office turned out to be more powerful than the country’s first person. At least in the ability to convey your thoughts to the people.
Information rivalry is very much like the logic of warfare. The United States has seized control of the information market in the Middle East with the hands of its tech giants. China, as an alaverda, is developing 5G networks in Germany, Hungary and 45 other countries around the world.
TikTok, the first truly sensational Chinese information breakthrough, is illustrative. In the US, now every third consumer consumes the content of this social network. Its influence on the minds and hearts of Americans is growing day by day. Back in 2019, The Guardian accused ByteDance (the owner of TikTok) of lobbying China’s foreign policy and censoring content that was not desirable for Beijing. Of course, the content that Beijing does not want is very much in line with US foreign policy. Tensions grew, and Donald Trump, while still president, ordered the purchase of the social network from the Chinese due to the fact that the application “can provide China with access to personal and official information of Americans, potentially allowing tracking the whereabouts of federal employees, compiling dossiers for blackmail and conducting corporate espionage. “.
It was in this phrase that the President of the United States revealed the essence of the threats posed by social networks in relation to national security. At the same time, ByteDance is registered in the Cayman Islands, and its servers are controlled by the transnational Alibaba Group.
The Americans, by the way, did not manage to buy the popular social network.
In Russia, TikTok has played an even more sinister role as “the mouthpiece of the teen revolution.”
TikTok is a social network popular, first of all, among children and adolescents. It seems that there is nothing wrong with videos with songs and dances. But not everything is so “white and fluffy”.
In January 2021, TikTok was marked with a disgusting action – calls for children to take to the streets as cannon fodder in support of a criminal and a pseudo-politician. We will not mention his name – a lot of honor to a worthless person. By the way, before that, only the Third Reich and the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea fought with children. As political scientist Sergei Mikheev noted, “This is political pedophilia.
More than 100 million views were collected by numerous videos explaining how, where and when to go on the notorious protest “walks”. And even though some of them were recorded exclusively on “hype”, but a large part was the result of a complex and well-planned action.
The public and television with a great delay realized the danger of the once “harmless and stupid toy in a smartphone.” TikTok’s incriminating content poured from television screens, but it only added popularity to the platform – as you know, the forbidden fruit is sweet. And it is very difficult to close the Chinese network now.
Firstly, all Google and Apple app stores are outside the Russian jurisdiction. And secondly, users can easily bypass most of the restrictions using VPN mode. Thirdly, for full-fledged protection, you will have to build your own “Great Firewall”. And these are gigantic resources and a mixed reaction from the public. In the best case, the story will repeat itself with Telegram, which was banned in vain and for a long time, but in the end it was allowed with great reputational losses.
As an attempt to resolve the issue of digital sovereignty by means of “import substitution” one could count the created “YaMolodets” – an analogue of TikTok and the reanimated RuTube – a competitor to YouTube. However, there is also a very significant “BUT!” These platforms are part of the Gazprom-Media structure. And no one will guarantee that they will not be filled with anti-Russian content, similar to another asset of this media holding – the radio station Echo of Moscow.
Digital Sovereignty and GAFA: Collecting User Data
GAFA stands for the four leading online companies – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Microsoft did not get into this “noble society” just because the company was not in a very manipulative position when the acronym was formed. Today GAFA is no longer limited to just four “founding companies”. These are all multinational digital companies that collect user data.
There are two sides to the process of collecting and using data.
The first is commercial. Users exchange their personal data for something FREE and get better services. And free cheese, as you know, is only in a mousetrap.
The second is political, when foreign governments claim data sovereignty. Government agencies collect personal data from users that are provided by various networks. For example, Facebook and the like. And then all this is used on a national and global scale.
After that, does anyone still have doubts about the need for Russian digital sovereignty?
Addiction to technology
Even if you try not to pay attention to all sorts of TikTok, Instagram and other YouTube (which, of course, is impossible), then there is no way to hide from software solutions. For example – SAP, Oracle, CISCO and Microsoft. If this software at one point turns out to be inoperable on the territory of Russia, then the consequences may well be catastrophic. Disconnection from the notorious payment system SWIFT, which has been scaring us since 2014, will paralyze all exports.
But this is only part of the problem. The second no less important threat to Russian national interests was the catastrophic lag in the field of microelectronics. At one time, the Soviet Union fully provided itself with such equipment, albeit not the most advanced in the world, but quite tolerable and fulfilling its tasks. Now the products of Russian microelectronics, according to Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, “are not even present in world statistics.”
It makes no sense to talk about how critical the lag in the field of “computer hardware” will be for the country’s defense. It is impossible to create high-tech electronic components of weapons without possessing the technologies for the development and production of civil digital integrated circuits. And this, it should be noted, is very expensive. For example, the Taiwanese company TSMC plans to build in the United States only one factory for assembling microcircuits with topological norms of 5 nm, worth $ 20 billion by 2029.
Still, a picture painted in dark colors can be refreshed with notes of optimism. In the digital sovereignty of Russia, not everything is in dense negativity.
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First of all, the country has its own popular platforms – VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, which are real competitors to foreign social networks. The Gosuslugi website, with its two trillion hits annually, is the world’s most popular public services platform. According to analysts of the Valdai Club, the share of the digital economy in Russia’s GDP is growing every year, and by the number of Internet users the country is in the world Top-10. Also, two financial and technological corporations are being created in the country – Yandex and Sberbank, whose ecosystems will soon include almost the entire life of a Russian – from taxi and pizza delivery to buying real estate and listening to music. On this basis, it is quite possible to prepare an “invasion” of the domain of the US and China IT giants.
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But with “computer hardware” everything is more complicated.
On the one hand, the state will invest up to 800 billion rubles in the next four years in the development of Russian microelectronics. The plans include the creation of factories working with topological norms of integrated circuits from 5 to 28 nm. But on the other hand, the allocated money may not be enough – the aforementioned company from Taiwan has laid a larger budget for the 5 nm chip factory alone. Or, for example, a 22-nanometer POWER8 processor from IBM cost $ 2.4 billion. And today, the development cost of one processor reaches an average of $ 3 billion. And this is given the necessary production base. And in Russia, for just $ 11-12 billion, it was decided to create practically from scratch a whole line of domestic integrated digital microcircuits.
The second reason why a large-scale program can turn into another Rusnano is the main executor – the state corporation Rostec. Once again, we are stepping on the old rake, entrusting innovative products to government-controlled companies, rather than announcing fair competitions and tenders for the best ideas.
Radical solutions to the issue of digital sovereignty: blocking Twitter in Russia
In the second component of the Union State – Belarus, they want to solve the issue of digital sovereignty radically – by creating a single body for state regulation of the digital sphere. At the same time, China’s experience in regulating the national segment of the global network will be used. The corresponding order is issued by the President of the country Alexander Lukashenko.
Such plans were announced by Lukashenko himself, speaking at a meeting on the development of the IT industry and the financial sector. The President of Belarus promised to finalize and sign a decree focusing the country’s available resources in several key areas.
“Create a single government regulation body, make the most of China’s experience in building a digital society,” Lukashenko said. At the same time, Alexander Grigorievich noted: “the authorities are going to regulate in a civilized manner, and not“ squeeze ”the work of the information technology sector, which brings significant foreign exchange earnings.” At the same time, Lukashenko did not specify exactly which aspects of the experience of the PRC in regulating the digital sphere Belarus intends to use.
In China, the Internet backbone infrastructure was originally built to facilitate traffic control. And since 2003, the “Golden Shield” system has been operating in the country, restricting access to sites and services undesirable for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Access to YouTube, Facebook or the sites of leading Western media is possible in China only using a VPN or other blocking bypass tools, and they are not always effective.
In Russia, they do not yet resort to such a radical pod. But “our answer to Chamberlain” is also being prepared.
Roskomnadzor on March 16, 2021 promised to block the social network Twitter on the territory of Russia in mid-April if the service does not delete prohibited information: “We took a month and watched the reaction of Twitter on the removal of prohibited information. After that, depending on the actions of the administration of the social network, appropriate decisions will be made. If Twitter does not comply with the requirements of Roskomnadzor and Russian legislation, the issue of a complete blocking of the service in Russia will be considered. ”
Roskomnadzor on March 10 already announced the beginning of a “primary slowdown” in the speed of Twitter in Russia due to the fact that the service does not remove content prohibited in the country. The department promised to continue measures of influence on the social network up to its blocking. At the same time, the department is ready to conduct a dialogue with the company, but it does not respond to requests and requests from Twitter.
Acquisition and strengthening of digital sovereignty is one of the most important functions of the state in the digit-era.
Currently, there is no single generally accepted understanding of the concept of “digital sovereignty”. However, proceeding from the definition of the term “sovereignty” as the independence of the state in foreign affairs and the supremacy of state power in internal affairs, it is logical to consider digital sovereignty as the ability to technologically and legislatively ensure and protect the independence of the state and the constitutional rights of citizens in the information space from external threats, controlling while happening in this area. The absence of such full-scale state control leads a potential adversary to a dangerous awareness of the possibility of unpunished aggression with the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), up to the destruction of the state as an institution. We see examples of such ICT attacks on an increasing scale from the late 90s to the present.
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Author: Exiterra Digital Agency