Fragmented Internet: National Interest or Human Rights Violation?

//Fedor Smirnov, a participant in the 2015 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute and ICT practitioner in Russia, discusses internet fragmentation and privacy in Russia with key insights from AnOx speakers.

Fragmentation of the internet, triggered by Snowden’s revelations, is a key issue for internet governance researchers and practitioners alike. As Professor Milton L. Mueller argued during the 2015 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute, there are two types of fragmentation: unintentional technical incompatibility and intentional limitations of access, latter of which raises concerns in both academic and civil societies. Today’s internet is generally open, interoperable and unified, but governments across the world strive towards greater control of the net. Some threats to internet freedom are of technical nature (threats to Domain Name System, DNS), others political (internet censorship and blocking), and others still economic (breakdown peering and transit agreement) and legal (local privacy regimes). Over the past few years, Russia has taken many steps towards more fragmented internet access, particularly by introducing blacklists, requiring bloggers registration, and holding discussions about a “disconnected Runet’  (a scenario when .RU top level domain may be separated from the global DNS).

Russia is not the first country to implement data localization requirements. Along with countries like Vietnam, Brazil and India, Western democracies such as Germany, France, and Canada are heading towards a fragmented internet as well.[1] Russia’s tendency towards fragmentation resulted in the Russian Data Localization Law (242-FZ) that took effect September 1, 2015. The law, which pushes Russia further down a data localization trajectory, stipulates that digitalized personal data of Russian citizens  should be recorded, systematized, and stored using databases located within national territory. Websites that break the law will be added to a special register, which will enable Russian government-controlled communication regulator Roskomnadzor to block those who are non-compliant.

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