Russia may be aiming for a gold medal of its own when it comes to extensive and invasive surveillance at next year’s Winter Olympics.
Russia’s FSB security service is reportedly planning to track all communications from visitors of the Sochi Winter Olympics in February, reports The Guardian.
Working together with Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, the British paper has discovered that Russia will rely on its Prism-like surveillance system, Sorm, to track voice and data traffic. While Russia aims to deploy Sorm countrywide, it’s focusing the system heavily on Sochi in preparation for an influx of foreign visitors next year.
University of Toronto professor Ron Deibert describes the Sorm system as “Prism on steroids.”
“The scope and scale of Russian surveillance are similar to the disclosures about the US programme but there are subtle differences to the regulations,” Deibert tells the Guardian. “We know from Snowden’s disclosures that many of the checks were weak or sidestepped in the US, but in the Russian system permanent access for Sorm is a requirement of building the infrastructure.”
Given the headlines Prism has made worldwide, and the increasing tensions between Russia and the United States, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Russia is doubling down on its own surveillance efforts. But it seems like a damning addition to an event like the Winter Olympics, which is supposed to represent unity and trust across participating nations. (A moment of irony: In a torch lighting ceremony on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned that the Russian people’s qualities of “openness and friendship” made Sochi an ideal place for the games.)
According to Soldatov and Borogan, Russia has been working since 2010 to have Sorm ready for the Winter Olympics. Telecoms and ISPs are required to install Sorm boxes, which allows the FSB to access data at will. The system will also reportedly enable deep packet inspection by the FSB, allowing them to track users based on particular phrases and keywords, the Guardian notes.