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Russia Tells Tinder to Share User Data

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  • Russia announced Monday that it will put Tinder on a registry that will require the company to provide the country’s security agencies with all its user data.
  • The dating-app said that it would comply, but clarified that it had not given data over to Russian security agencies yet.
  • The move comes as Russia has increased internet censorship laws in the past few months
  • If Tinder refuses to comply, they could be banned in the country entirely.

Russia Makes Tinder Give Data

Russian authorities announced Monday that they were ordering the dating-app Tinder to be put on a registry that will require the company to hand over all user data to the government.

That registry, referred to as the organizers of information dissemination (ORI) list, falls under the management of Russia’s telecommunications agency Roskomnadzor.

The ORI list was created under recent laws and includes 175 companies that are all required to not only store user data on Russian servers, but also to give that data to government agencies on demand.

Sources: @Roskomnadzor

Those agencies include the Federal Security Service (FSB) which is the agency that took over from the KBG.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Tinder said it will comply with the order to place on the registry. Tinder, however, said that it has not given any user data to Russian security agencies, which leaves the possibility that the company could deny a request from Russian authorities to turn over that data.

At the same time, Russian media sources have reported that Tinder has already given all the data required under the registry to Roskomnadzor.

While it appears that security agencies have to formally request that data, it is already in the hands of a Russian agency, even if it is just in their servers

“We received a request to register with the Russian authorities, and, as of now, we have registered to be compliant,” Tinder said in a statement to media outlets.

“This registration in no way shares any user or personal data with any Russian regulatory bodies and we have not handed over any data to their government.”

What Does This Mean?

Currently, it appears that Tinder has already started to store data on Russian servers, but what does that include?

BBC Russia reported that companies on the ORI list are required to store their metadata, as well as “correspondence, audio, video and other user materials.” In other words, companies on the registry must provide essentially all of their user data, period.

According to Bussiness Insider, Tinders compliance with the registry would not just impact Russian citizens: Russian security agencies could request data from Tinder’s users around the world.

If true, this means that Russia could access information from the estimated 500 million people that use Tinder in 190 different countries.

Broader Internet Censorship

If Tinder refuses to comply with the ORI list, they could be blocked in Russia entirely and that is not an empty threat.

In 2018, the messaging app Telegram was added to the ORI list, but it refused to share data with the government, which resulted in the app being banned in Russia.

However, Tinder is not the only American company that faces these issues. According to CNN Business, Google and Facebook are also in a legal dispute with Roskomnadzor, which has demanded that the two tech companies store data within Russia.

Facebook and Google have not given their data to Roskomnadzor, but the agency has threatened to ban their services in Russia if they do not move their servers to Russia by a certain date.

These efforts come as a part of broader efforts in Russia to regulate and censor the internet. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed two new laws that punished anyone who spread “fake news” or insulted the government with heavy fines and jail time.

At the same time, massive protests broke out in Moscow and two other Russian cities over a proposed bill that would functionally cut Russia off from the global internet by directing Russian web traffic through government-controlled servers.

Putin signed that bill into law last month. While Putin and supporters of the law said it was necessary to protect Russia from foreign meddling, critics argued the bill is similar to China’s internet firewall and would censor content.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNN) (BBC)

International

Death Toll in Myanmar Surpasses 50 People as Police Continue To Use Live Ammunition

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  • At least 50 people have died across Myanmar since the start of the coup on Feb. 1, with Wednesday being the single largest loss of life to date after 38 were shot by security forces.
  • Despite the danger, tens of thousands of citizens continue to take to the streets to protest the coup and demand the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.
  • The U.N. Security Council is due to meet Friday to discuss how to deal with the situation in Myanmar in response to calls for a solution from nations and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Growing Violence Across Myanmar

Over the weekend, security forces in Myanmar killed 18 anti-coup protesters and wounded at least 30 more. Across the subsequent three days, that number rose considerably.

According to the U.N., at least 38 people were killed on Wednesday alone.; making it the bloodiest day of the coup so far and raising the overall death toll to over 50. Exact number are difficult to find, as the chaos on the ground precludes outlets from confirming accounts of possibly more deaths.

The violence has occurred across the country, with the deaths largely being tied to the use of live ammunition by security forces. The demonstrations, and the response to them, have been widely captured on camera. Some of the most shocking scenes are of police passing a BA-53 (a Burmese Army variant of the HK G3 military rifle) to fire into protesters.

Despite the death, tens of thousands of citizens continue to take to the streets to protest the coup and demand the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. Thursday morning saw thousands in the streets who attended vigils for those slain on Wednesday, an increasingly common ritual for the prior day’s deaths.

Sanctions May Not Work

The United States has tried to get neighboring countries to join it and the European Union in sanctioning the Burmese military, but few Southeast Asian countries wanted to sign on, which gives the Burmese military breathing room as most of its diplomatic and trade relations are with neighboring countries.

At the U.N., Security Council members are due to meet on Friday to discuss calls from countries and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to stop the coup and the escalating crackdowns against protesters. However, it’s unclear what more they can do. Sanctions against specific military leaders are often ineffective, yet sanctions on the country as a whole would affect the everyday people they’re trying to support.

Other options include direct intervention, but Justine Chambers, Associate Director of the Myanmar Research Center at the Australian National University, pushed back against this, telling The New York Times, “Unfortunately I don’t think the brutality caught on camera is going to change much.”

“I think domestic audiences around the world don’t have much of an appetite for stronger action, i.e. intervention, given the current state of the pandemic and associated economic issues.”

While it’s unclear what more the international community can do, it’s quite likely that violence will continue in Myanmar as citizens try to peacefully restore democracy.

See what others are saying: (AP) (Reuters) (New York Times)

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Saudi Arabia To Require Vaccine for Hajj Pilgrims

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  • Saudi Arabia will require all pilgrims participating in the Hajj this year to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to local media.
  • The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime if they are physically or financially able to.
  • Many believe the inoculation requirement may help allay suspicions over vaccines within certain Muslim communities.
  • Those suspicions have persisted despite Muslim leaders clarifying that there are no theological problems with taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines available.

COVID-19 Vaccines for Pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry will only allow people vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Hajj this year, according to local outlet Okaz.

The Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime – assuming they are physically and financially able to. However, requiring a vaccine before taking part in the Hajj isn’t a new thing. In fact, Saudi Arabia already has a list of necessary vaccinations for pilgrims.

For a virus that is among the most virulent in recent history and requiring a COVID-19 vaccine makes sense, especially since the Hajj is among the most densely populated events in the world.

In an effort to combat COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has also introduced restrictions over how many pilgrims can come to Mecca for the first time in modern history.

Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to partake in the Hajj will likely have the added benefit of allaying fears about COVID-19 vaccines in Muslim communities, which account for nearly 2 billion people in the world. While Muslims overall support vaccinations and their religious leaders openly support vaccination efforts, some do doubt vaccines for either political reasons or religious ones.

Changes in Vaccine Hesitancy

Suspicions have arisen due to recent history, notably after Osama bin Laden was located through a vaccine program that acted as a front for the C.I.A. That incident led to a wider-anti vaccine movement in parts of Pakistan that have seen vaccine clinics burned to the ground.

Others are worried over more religious concerns, such as whether the vaccines are Halal, which is roughly the Muslim version of Kosher. To that, most major vaccines say that they are Halal and contain no animal products, such as Pfizer’s, Moderna’s, and AstraZeneca’s,

While other possibly non-Halal vaccines, such as Sinovac’s, have been given the okay from major Islamic authorities, such as Indonesia’ Ulema Council.

The concerns over whether a vaccine is Halal or not may be mute as most imams and Islamic councils have clarified that such dietary restrictions are trumped by the need to save human lives.

While the Health Ministry’s statement is for 2021, it’s possible that the decision will last beyond that based on the pandemic’s progress.

See what other are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Hill) (Middle East Eye)

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E.U. and U.S. Sanction Russian Officials Over Navalny Detention

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  • The E.U. and U.S. coordinated new sanctions against seven Russian officials tied to the current fate of activist and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
  • More efforts are expected to follow, with officials claiming that 14 Russian entities tied to the manufacturing of Novichok – the rare nerve agents that supposedly poisoned Navalny – are the next to be sanctioned.
  • Despite the sanctions, Biden’s administration hopes to be able to work with Russia on other world issues, such as nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea.
  • Navalny himself isn’t likely to benefit from the sanctions as he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.

Coordinated Efforts by E.U. and U.S.

The U.S. and E.U. both announced coordinated sanctions against Russia Tuesday morning over the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

In particular, seven senior officials are targeted by the sanctions.

  • Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
  • Chief of the Presidential Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin
  • First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Aleksey Krivoruchko
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Pavel Popov
  • Federal Penitentiary Service director Alexander Kalashnikov
  • Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.

Both the E.U. and U.S. also plan to add fourteen entities that are involved in making the extremely deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok.

First Step For Biden

These sanctions are the first such action by the Biden administration against Russia and seem to be a tone shift from the previous administration. The Trump administration was considered relatively soft on Russia and only enacted a few sanctions over election interference, which were only softly enforced.

One U.S. official, according to NBC News reportedly said, that “today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”

“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate,” the official went on to add.

The man at the center of all this, Alexei Navalny, has been an outspoken critic of Putin who was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for Novichok poisoning.

He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison over alleged fraud crimes and is reported to have been sent to one of Russia’s worst penal colonies outside of the city of Pokrov to serve out his term.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (NBC News)

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