Russia demands dating app Tinder give user data to secret services

In this photo taken on May 16, 2019, passengers look at their smartphones as they ride a bus in Moscow, Russia. Russia's communications regulator says that Tinder is now required to provide user data to Russian intelligence agencies. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Updated 04 June 2019
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Russia demands dating app Tinder give user data to secret services

  • Russia adopted a flurry of legislation in recent years tightening control over online activity
  • A total of 175 online services are on the list requiring them to hand over user data to Russian authorities

MOSCOW: Russia is requiring dating app Tinder to hand over data on its users — including messages — to the national intelligence agencies, part of the country’s widening crackdown on Internet freedoms.
The communications regulator said Monday that Tinder was included on a list of online services operating in Russia that are required to provide user data on demand to Russian authorities, including the FSB security agency.
Tinder, an app where people looking for dates swipe left or right on the profiles of other users to reject or accept them, will have to cooperate with Russian authorities or face being completely blocked in the country. The rule would apply to any user’s data that goes through Russian servers, including messages to other people on the app.
Tinder, which is based in West Hollywood, California, said Monday that it has registered to be compliant with Russian authorities but added that it has “not handed over any data to their government.” But the company did not say whether it plans to do so in the future.
Russia adopted a flurry of legislation in recent years tightening control over online activity. Among other things, Internet companies are required to store six months’ worth of user data and be ready to hand them over to authorities.
Russian authorities last year issued an order to ban messaging app Telegram after it refused to hand over user data. Some top Russian officials, including the FSB chief, attacked Telegram, claiming “extremists” used the platform to plot terrorist attacks.
Despite authorities’ attempt to block Telegram, it is still available in Russia.
Social network LinkedIn has also tried to resist but has been less fortunate. It refused to comply with requirements that personal data on Russian citizens be stored on servers within Russia. In 2016, a court ordered that LinkedIn be blocked.
A total of 175 online services are on the list requiring them to hand over user data to Russian authorities. Most are small websites in Russian regions.
Popular messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger are not on the list. Russian authorities say that is because law enforcement agencies have not approached them for data from those particular apps, but it is widely understood that blocking Facebook and its popular apps like WhatsApp or Instagram would be a big step for regulators.
One of the recent victims of the watchdog’s list was Zello, a voice messaging app popular with Russian truck drivers. Zello was an important tool to mobilize truck drivers protesting against a new toll system in 2015.
After nearly a year of attempts to block the app, Zello became unavailable in Russia last year.

Decoder

Tinder app

Tinder, owned by Match Group and based in West Hollywood, California, allows users to “swipe left” and “swipe right” in their search for suitable dating partners and has millions of users around the world.


Bloomberg reporters in Turkey court over economy article

Updated 20 September 2019
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Bloomberg reporters in Turkey court over economy article

  • They were among dozens of defendants, including some who had simply written jokes about the currency crisis on Twitter
  • Conspiracy theories are widely believed in Turkey

ISTANBUL: Two Bloomberg reporters went on trial in a Turkish court Friday, facing up to five years in prison over claims they tried to sabotage the economy with an article about last year’s currency crisis.
They were among dozens of defendants, including some who had simply written jokes about the currency crisis on Twitter.
The Bloomberg article was published in August 2018 on a dramatic day when the lira lost around a fifth of its value against the dollar. It said Turkey’s banking regulator agency, known as the BDDK, would hold an emergency meeting.
“For the BDDK to call a meeting was normal... I hardly understand why our story has received such a reaction,” Kerim Karakaya, who faces trial along with his colleague Fercan Yalinkilic, told the court.
Others in court appeared shocked to be on trial over throwaway comments on Twitter.
“If me and the others in this room can ruin the economy with tweets, then we are all toast,” said one of the defendants, Halit Tokkus.
A 22-year-old student, Bilalcan Sagir, was also in court over a tweet that read: “I doubt the brain of anyone who says there is no crisis. Come to your senses.”
He told the court: “I am a student. I posted tweets but I don’t know how I can influence the capital markets.”
After opening statements, the court said a new hearing would be held on January 17.
Conspiracy theories are widely believed in Turkey, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often stoked suspicions of the foreign media, saying they are trying to undermine the country.
Erol Onderoglu, of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who was attending the trial, said it “illustrates a new and worrying tendency that targets the coverage of economic affairs.”
He highlighted other recent cases, including a local journalist, Cengiz Erdinc, who was convicted of “damaging the reputation” of public bank Ziraat.
In July, the government-linked SETA think tank in Istanbul published a report listing certain Turkish journalists working foreign media, accusing them of using “anti-government language.”
RSF described the report as an “intimidation attempt” that “brings the harassment of foreign media correspondents to a new level.”