- 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.
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)
U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.
The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.
New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle
A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.
Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.
In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.
The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.
Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.
However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased.
In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.
High Court Ruling
The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.”
“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”
Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.
If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.
Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.
U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe
The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.
More Information About Omicron
Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.
One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.
Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa — where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.
Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.
In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.
Studies on Vaccine Efficacy
Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.
On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.
According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses.
By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.
Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.
Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)
40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox
The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.
Camels Booted From Beauty Contest
More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.
The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.
However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”
Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.
An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.
“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”
While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.
In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.