Respecting freedom of expression and surveillance privacy – Telia Company's view on new security legislation in Russia

In Russia, a new security law adopted in May 2019 will turn into force on November 1, 2019. By then all licensed operators, including Telia Carrier, will have to have installed ‘security threats prevention equipment’ on their networks. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression and surveillance privacy, we therefore report on new legislation with potentially serious impacts on those rights of users.

Governments’ security legislation often serves legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression and surveillance privacy.

Operational and technical control
As articulated in our policy on freedom of expression and surveillance privacy (available here, ‘Public advocacy’ – page 2, Policy principle 3), we advocate in all of our markets that governments should not have direct access to our networks and systems. It is our view that our local companies should retain operational and technical control.

According to this new legislation in Russia, all licensed operators are to install ‘security threats prevention equipment’ on their networks in Russia. The Russian Government will provide the equipment free of charge and will have full control on the operation of the facilities, the operators not any way being involved. Telia Carrier has not yet received a request based on the law and the law itself does not define any technical nature of the facilities, such as if it will combine deep packet inspection (DPI) and/or route server capabilities. A request can be expected soon, and operators will have to install the equipment in due time before November 1 2019.

Impacts on freedom of expression and surveillance privacy will totally depend upon implementation of the law by the authorities, and decisions by courts. The law, however, defines and grants the authorities with a powerful tool for connectivity and content management. The Government is to provide the nature and number of devices to be installed by the operators, including installation and implementation instructions. The law indemnifies operators from liability following any outages or malfunctions of the network caused by the equipment.

This new Russian legislation is available here, in Russian; http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/File/GetFile/0001201905010025?type=pdf

‘Clear and transparent’
The Policy of Telia Company is not to engage in politics of the countries in which we operate. We do not make political statements when representing our company. However, Telia Company does engage in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and customers.

Telia Company, as further defined in our Group Policy, advocates clear and transparent legal provisions on proportionality and necessity for all government legislation in the context of surveillance, freedom of expression and surveillance privacy.

Telia Company will continue to promote the above views, including engaging with other companies and stakeholders taking a collaborative approach to problem solving and identifying best practice as to implementation of this new law.