Russia signed a law giving it the power to censor the internet. Now, it has passed another law banning the sale of smartphones, computers and smart TVs that don’t have Russian software pre-installed, the BBC reported. Those devices can still be sold with their normal software, but Russian alternatives must be installed, as well. However, critics have said that’s not possible on certain devices, and the law could force some international companies to leave the market.
The law will come into force in July 2020 and cover smartphones, computers and smart televisions. Proponents of the legislation say it is aimed at promoting Russian technology and making it easier for people in the country to use the gadgets they buy. But there are concerns about surveillance and fears that firms could pull out of the Russian market.
The law will not mean devices from other countries cannot be sold with their normal software – but Russian “alternatives” will also have to be installed.
A mandate to add third-party applications to Apple’s ecosystem would be equivalent to jailbreaking. It would pose a security threat, and the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk.
Proponents of the bill also said it would make devices more friendly for elderly users. “Of course, many people can install whatever they want on their smartphones or computers themselves, but more senior individuals may encounter problems, and they need help,” said Communist party rep Alexander Yushchenko.
However, critics said that the bill could force major western tech companies like Apple out of the country. “A mandate to add third-party applications to Apple’s ecosystem would be equivalent to jailbreaking. It would pose a security threat, and the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk,” a source within Apple reportedly told Kommersant. A Russian trade group also said that it’s impossible to install Russian app on some devices, which would force certain manufacturers out of the market.
Others see the moves as march towards a surveillance state, with users forced to install apps that may spy on them. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch called said the internet blocking bill “is bad news for Russia and creates a dangerous precedent for other countries.”