Russian Security Council seeks to identify online gamers in fight against terrorism

Russian Security Council seeks to identify online gamers in fight against terrorism
Russia’s national-security advisory body has ordered the development of a nationwide system of identification for computer-game players, claiming that terrorists use anonymous in-game chats for secret communication.

The Security Council of the Russian Federation told the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Communications Ministry that the country needed additional measures to regulate information exchange on the internet after a special session in late October, the RBC news agency reported on Monday.

Security officials referred to a new data-protection law, which will make the identification of users obligatory for internet messengers from the beginning of next year. However, the law does not apply to social networks or online computer games, despite the fact that these platforms often have in-built messengers.

The Security Council has proposed extending the law the cover all users of social media and online games in order to address the problem. This would require gamers and social-media users to undergo an identification process using a mobile-phone number.

The issue was raised last year by Vladimir Zharov, head of the Russian internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor, in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks that took place in Paris in November 2015. “As far as I know, in Paris the terrorists organized their communications not only through messengers that use encoding, but also through the Playstation 4, where you cannot distinguish the calls to shoot and kill made in a virtual game from the ones made in the course of real-life terrorist attack,” Zharov said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.

The motion obliging all operators of internet messengers to verify the identity of every user was drafted by parliamentary majority party United Russia, the Communist Party and the center-left Fair Russia in early June this year. The bill was quickly passed by parliament and by late July, it was signed into law and will come into force on January 1, 2018. The bill also contains an amendment tightening rules on the sale of mobile accounts, aiming to prevent users from giving cell phone providers false data about themselves.

The specific process for the identification of internet-messenger users has yet to be detailed by the government. Users who fail to comply with the new rules will be banned from using internet messengers, but this penalty would require a court order.