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Phones and PCs sold in Russia will have to come pre-installed with Russian apps

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Image:Szabo Viktor

The Russian Parliament is debating a bill that will force all electronic equipment sold in Russia — such as smartphones, computers, and smart TVs — to ship pre-installed with apps from Russian tech firms.

According to lawmakers, “the bill will protect the interests of Russian Internet companies and will reduce the abuse by large foreign companies, working in the field of information technology.”

If the bill is approved, the Russian government will publish a list of electronic devices that will need to comply with this new law. Smartphones, tablets, computers, servers, and smart TVs are expected to be on the list. Devices that don’t run a complex OS or custom software will be exempt.

The government will also publish, per each device type, a list of Russian software that equipment vendors will need to include on devices sold in Russia.

Vendors who fail to comply would be eligible for fines of up to 200,000 rubles (roughly $3,100) and an eventual ban, following repeated offenses.

While some see the Russian government’s move as a step towards protecting the local tech scene, many see it as yet another move towards a total surveillance state, with many expressing fears that the apps forced on their devices may be used to provide the government with easy access to their private data, and even encrypted communications.

If approved, and the chances are that it will, the new bill will enter into effect on July 1, 2020, as an amendment to Russia’s consumer rights law.

The bill already passed a first vote in the lower house of the Russian Parliament. To be approved and reach President Putin’s desk, the bill needs to pass two more votes in the lower house and a vote in the upper house. The bill is expected to pass all three upcoming votes as it already garnered the support of all major Russian political parties.

The Russian Parliament’s press release is here. The bill’s proposed text is here. Russian state news agency TASS first reported on the bill on Tuesday, November 5, after it was presented on the parliament floor.


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