- The new app will be mandatory to download for all foreigners entering Russia.
- The refusal to download tracking app will result in the restrictions and social status downgrade.
- The information gathering will include biometric data, health information.
Russian experts suggested that the Russian Interior Ministry create a digital profile of a foreigner entering Russia as well as foreign nationals who are already working in Russia. It will be a special app that all foreigners will have to install on their electronic devices. Russian law enforcement will monitor all the person’s whereabouts and communication.
Of course, it is all for the greater good to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and future pandemics. Nevertheless, it is pure intelligence gathering under the guise of the virus threat. The installation of the app will be controlled by the border services at the Russian borders and various points of entry. Once the app is downloaded, the device is tracked. Anything that is used on the smartphone will be monitored and the whereabouts of the foreign national will be available in real time 24/7.
According to the announcement, the Russian Interior Ministry has prepared a forecast for the development of the situation in the migration sphere, taking into account “force majeure factors due to the coronavirus pandemic.” Any foreign national refusing to install such app on their smartphone can be denied entry or will be restricted on travel within Russia.
The digital profile of the foreign national in Russia will include a social trust rating. It will contain information about the social and legal status of the foreign national, biometric data, health information, criminal history, etc.
The danger of such information gathering, especially for foreign nationals, is possible later use to produce fraudulent documents for Russian spies. It could also open flood gates for the black market.
Russia is known to be corrupt and very active player on the Dark web. The dark web is a subset of the deep web that is intentionally hidden, requiring a specific browser—Tor—to access. No one really knows the size of the dark web, but most estimates put it at around 5% of the total internet.
The new proposed system by the Kremlin is similar to what China implemented fully this year. However, China is tracking its own citizens, while Russia besides tracking their own citizens will be also tracking foreign nationals. China’s social credit score impacts people. A pedestrian crossing a street on a red light could face a temporary ban from using public transportation.
The system in China is open source information to anyone who knows the person’s name and the new software even shows you local individuals with poor social credit in your neighborhood.
With this new development, besides the travel warnings due to coronavirus, there should be a travel advisory to all foreign nationals pertaining to the new method of gathering information and tracking. It violates privacy and could be a serous security breach and threat. All foreign nationals should beware of the ramifications; their personal information use and storage could be used to harm them in the future.