RUSSIA HAS TAKEN a step closer to having the kind of internet that Chinese citizens enjoy: a heavily restricted one. The country has announced that it will be blocking nine pieces of VPN software within the next month.
Back in March, Roskomnadzor - the country's telecommunications regulation agency - wrote to ten VPN companies, informing them that they had to link their servers to government-run IT systems. This would allow the Russian government to block out sites it's not a fan of.
Unsurprisingly, nine of the 10 sites refused to do so, and some wrote grandstanding blog posts bigging up their privacy credentials in the process. That means that ExpressVPN, HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, IPVanish, KeepSolid, NordVPN, OpenVPN, TorGuard, and VyprVPN will all be blocked in time.
The one VPN to accept the government demands was Kaspersky. That may seem like a copout, but remember that Kaspersky is a Russian company, and the possible consequences of upsetting the government would likely be worse than no longer being on Christmas card terms.
"The law says unequivocally if the company refuses to comply with the law - it should be blocked," Alexander Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor told Interfax (via Google Translate, so he probably said it more elegantly, to be fair). "So, we will do it in some time."
Of course, these are just the top 10 VPNs, and others do exist - something Zharov acknowledged. "These ten VPNs do not exhaust the entire list of proxy programs available to our citizens." he said. "I think the tragedy will not happen if they are blocked, although I feel very sorry for it."
That probably depends on your definition of "tragedy", but it's a lot harder to be high and mighty when our own government is currently doggedly pursuing an internet censorship policy that will almost inevitably lead to dangerous data breaches and won't actually solve the problem it tries to tackle. Still: at least we still have our VPNs. µ
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