Russia's Unified Biometric System: Question More?
Why are so many "indy" media outlets indistinguishable from Russian state media?
By Riley Waggaman, a former “senior editor” (newsroom errand boy) at RT
Over the past two weeks this humble internet blog has been covering the rushed and troublesome adoption of a highly dubious law on biometrics collection, storage, and usage in Russia. (See: here, here, here, here.)
Our blog posts on this subject cited numerous Russian-language websites, Telegram channels, activists, and lawmakers who have been leading the fight against Schwab-inspired digital degeneracy in Russia.
But not so fast!
RT.com—which is always Questioning More—officially confirmed that this law is awesome. And why would Russian state media misrepresent Russian domestic policy? That would be completely insane.
We will return to RT’s “coverage.” But first, let’s have a look at a what Russian-language Mir Novostey (World of News) wrote about this benevolent legislation, a day before Putin signed it into law.
The State Duma adopted in the final—third—reading the law on biometrics
True, two documents appear in public. One in official papers is confusingly called: “On the state information system ‘Unified personal data information system’ that provides processing, including the collection and storage of biometric personal data, their verification and transmission of information on the degree of their compliance with the provided biometric personal data of an individual.”
Such absurd formulations usually hide the illiteracy of the authors.
The second name is short and to the point: “The Law on the Prohibition of Compulsory Collection of Biometrics.”
The bill caused so many protests and negative reviews that lobbyists from the Ministry of Digital Development and the State Duma, frightened by the wrath of the people, renamed the legislation on the fly.
Say, do not worry, citizens, we care about you! This “dressings up” shows there is a lot of dishonest and dirty things with the mentioned law. […]
The bill on a unified biometric system (UBS) was allegedly developed “in connection with the implementation of state policy in terms of increasing the security of processing biometric personal data.” The document establishes the “legal basis for this processing”, but does not explain why it is needed in principle.
And here the questions are: what—the current passport is not enough to confirm the identity of a citizen? What is wrong with this document? Only because it does not allow introducing a system of total digital control over every person in the country? […]
Hearings were held in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, where tough questions were formulated for gentlemen lobbyists. But they did not answer them—they simply did not come to the hearings. They were afraid of direct discussion with the public. Moreover, all the speakers were categorically against the bill, and not at the level of amendments, but in principle.
Most of the participants came to a consensus on key issues, namely:
an attempt to push the project through on New Year's Eve, when people are already thinking more about the holidays, testifies to the unscrupulous manipulations of the authors;
data security is not guaranteed in any way;
the project declares voluntariness, but creates a legal framework for forcing the surrender of biometrics after the fact; that is, without biometrics, a person will be a second-class citizen;
the project creates conditions for stripping citizens of their rights;
the participation of a non-state operator is expected;
the participation of foreign capital is not limited in any way;
centralizing the biometrics of Russians is fraught with threats to Russia’s security if they are stolen, which is almost inevitable if such a law is passed.
Important questions were asked: who is responsible for the information security of the project? What are the requirements for these people? What is their status? Nothing is known about this. It turns out that we entrust the data on all citizens to incomprehensible structures that have no special obligations. […]
Now about the "prohibition of forced collection." Yes, the law expressly prohibits forcing people to make “bio-casts”, but one of the articles provides for admission to defense industry enterprises and critical infrastructure through the UBS. It is possible that employees of such enterprises will have to turn in their “bio-casts” in order to keep their jobs. TIN [taxpayer identification number], for example, also remains optional ... And who does not have one?
It is reported that all the bio-profiles that banks have accumulated since 2018 (according to some estimates, there are about 70 million of them) will be transferred free of charge and without the consent of people to the UBS until September 30, 2023. What kind of “voluntary system” are we talking about?! People will only be “notified” of the transfer. “Gosuslugi” [Russia’s online public services portal] I remember, was also declared voluntary, but today one cannot take a step without them.
In short, adopted in a desperate hurry, on New Year's Eve and under an incomprehensible name, the law is not only illiterate, senseless and harmful—it is dangerous! True, officials, in an effort to obtain a convenient instrument of control over society, do not yet realize this. But the longer they remain in the dark, the higher the risks will be.
Now compare the above article to what RT.com published.
The RT “article” goes so far as to cite Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma, as proof that this law is amazing and privacy-protecting.
Yeah, the guy who voted for this bill says it’s good—shocking.
Imagine “indy media” in 2001 copy-pasting a Voice of America article hailing the US PATRIOT Act as legislation that keeps Americans safe and creates more patriots. Source: Dennis Hastert.
This is exactly what some so-called “indy” media outlets and pundits have just done, by blindly parroting a Russian state media “report” about a law that does the exact opposite of what it was billed as.
RT does a decent job of shining a light on stories that are often overlooked (or rather, ignored) by western mainstream media.
RT also excels at providing much-needed context about stories or unsubstantiated claims circulating in western mainstream media.
Finally, RT hosts many talented writers (almost exclusively disaffected westerners) who use the site’s op-ed page to excoriate their depraved western governments.
It is nice that RT does these things.
But there are some things that RT.com doesn’t do very well. For example: coverage of Russian domestic policy.
It is beyond comprehension that “indy” media continues to cite RT as an all-knowing, omnipotent authority on Russian domestic policy. AND WITHOUT EVEN SEARCHING FOR NOT-GOVERNMENT-FUNDED VIEWPOINTS. Are you guys OKAY?
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You were the one of the first, if not the very first, who blew the whistle about the Russian injection. Since then, I've been reading your articles with interest.
I unsubscribed from SOTT a few months ago exactly because of what you highlighted here.
Came across you from your interview with Tessa Feb./Mar. 2022. Really appreciate actually digging into domestic Russian news that almost no one else is covering