“Digital Gulag”: Moscow Looks Into “Monitoring And Analyzing” All User Internet Activity

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"Digital Gulag": Moscow Looks Into "Monitoring And Analyzing" All User Internet Activity

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The Moscow Department of Information Technologies (DIT) has placed a tender for the development of a system for monitoring and analyzing Internet activity of users in the Russian capital.

The cost of the tender is 280 million rubles ($3.7 million), and Open Media was the first to draw attention to it.

In accordance with the technical specifications, the system must track user interactions with various Internet resources, store data about them in an impersonal form and collect statistics.

The information system for monitoring and analyzing Internet activity is called IS STATS.

It was created back in 2017. According to the description of the current state of the system, it is already capable of detecting Internet users without the use of cookies.

“The information system for monitoring and analyzing users’ Internet activity automates processes that improve the quality of promotion and popularization of the content of information systems and resources of the city of Moscow, including the determination of optimal communication sites with visitors and a content promotion channel according to a certain segment, to which the visitor or the Internet belongs. -resource,” the system is described in the document.

On the basis of the current system, it is planned to “create a toolkit for monitoring user activity in the territories and facilities of the city of Moscow.”

With this system upgrade, Moscow City Hall expects to create detailed user profiles for all city services. The system database, for example, will contain information about payment for services, debts, fines, for example, traffic violations, parking rules and “medical violations”, information about a travel document and social card.

All this data will be compared with information about the connection of users’ devices to public Wi-Fi hotspots and with the geolocation data of telecom operators.

The system will create “activity profiles by line of business”. One of the system modules will study the “loyalty” of users.

The head of the Moscow DIT, Eduard Lysenko called the creation of such a monitoring system “a standard practice for many government and commercial organizations.”

According to him, the system will allow each user to update the information on the mos.ru portal.

“Analysis of Internet activity is necessary to personally provide relevant content to a specific user. For example, if a device often visits automotive services, the system classifies the user of this device as a motorist and will be able to offer him information on this topic in the future. Thus, residents receive only the information that is important and interesting to them,” he explained.

Lysenko stressed that the system will collect data impersonally.

“A profile and personal recommendations are not formed for a specific person, but for a device. The system works without reference to the user’s personal data and does not encroach on the secret of his personal life,” he said.

The competition for the creation of the STATS system was announced in 2017, the contract value was 42.5 million rubles ($526,000). The system was developed by ANO National Institute for Systemic Research of Entrepreneurship Problems (NISIPP).

In 2018 and 2019, two more tenders were announced for the modernization of the system, worth 52.4 million ($694,000) and 49.5 million rubles ($655,000), respectively.

In the spring, on behalf of the government, to combat the spread of coronavirus infection, a citizen contact tracing system was developed, as well as the Social Monitoring mobile application, which monitored the movements of COVID-19 patients undergoing home treatment.

The program tracks the user’s geolocation and requires him to take a photo at home. If the image is not received on the server of the Main Control Directorate of Moscow within an hour, then the sick person will be charged a large administrative fine.

In May 2020, users complained about disruptions in the work of Social Monitoring – notifications arrived late at night, and the photo could not be sent the first time. The HRC then proposed canceling all fines issued using the app.

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