back to article Mayday in Moscow as devs will be Russian to Putin mandatory apps on phones, laptops, TVs

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on the law requiring most electronics sold in the country to be pre-bundled with domestically produced software. Monday's approval from Putin means that, from July, all handsets, tablets, PCs, and smart TVs sold within the country's borders will be required to include software …

  1. William Higinbotham

    New Voice APP

    On Russian devices will be an app like Alexa, but it will be call CHEKA!

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: New Voice APP

      In SovietPutin's Russia, TV watches you.

      1. sal II

        Re: New Voice APP

        If only it was limited to Russia...

      2. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: New Voice APP

        That's possibly the best use of that meme I've ever read, but it's now making me wonder what the original form was, and if it might actually have been 'TV watches YOU!'.

        1. trindflo

          Re: New Voice APP

          I would guess the meme originated in George Orwell's 1984 where the TV did watch you.

      3. macjules Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: New Voice APP

        Vlad visits the UK to check his bank account for a summit.

        Border Agency: "Occupation?"

        Vlad: "Not today comrade, perhaps next time"

    2. danya023

      Re: New Voice APP

      I'm from Russia. There's a company called Yandex that do our most popular search engine, among other things. They also do an Alexa clone, called "Алиса" (Alisa -- not being too subtle there, are we lads?), and a client of that is in every Yandex app.

      They're basically the Google of Russia -- they do maps, weather, they've bought out Uber, they run (one of the versions of) GrubHub, etc. -- so everyone has at least one of their apps installed.

      Yandex likes the profits though so they comply with a lot of government's requests. It would appear that if the goal is to get everyone equipped with spyware (which, at least to me, seems to be the case), there's an easier option.

      (Almost everyone also has VK, the local Facebook, which is run by Mail.Ru Group, the local Facebook Inc., and they also seem pretty okay with following government's orders. We essentially have a carbon-copy of the entire Western tech industry -- and with this I don't have a problem -- but the way it is set up with the government ready to roger everyone with no warning at all is what bothers me a lot.)

      1. BlueTemplar

        Re: New Voice APP

        Well, we can only *dream* about that in Europe, can we ? :/

  2. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry

    In other news Apple to open Moscow software lab..

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on the law requiring most electronics sold in the country to be pre-bundled with domestically produced software surveillanceware .

    There fixed

  4. EveryTime

    I'm sure that there will be an active market for "TokenaWare" -- just enough Russian content to conform to the law. Companies will pay extra for it to actually do nothing, rather than just claim to do nothing.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk"

    Yeah. Let's see just how long Apple takes before deciding that it actually can tolerate that kind of risk.

    After all, it's not about morals, it's just about how much Apple will lose if it doesn't comply.

    Ah, the beauty of Capitalism.

    Sorry Apple, but if you think for one second that I believe you give a flying shit about morals, I have a bridge to sell you.

    1. sal II

      Re: "the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk"

      Russia isn't that important market for Apple, they don't even have Apple store there.

      Despite the territorial size of Russia, it's population is slightly higher than Japan (about 140 mil). The low income for large portion of the population is pricing them out of Apple products.

      Even if Apple officially pulls out, there will be plenty of sales on the black market and people just buying from abroad during their holiday etc. So the financial loss to Apple will be minimal, while the "moral" gain will be significant.

      Now if China decides to pull something like that....

      1. A nosy macro wound

        Re: "the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk"

        China don't need to force OEMs to pre-install their surveillance software, as their police just forcibly install it after-market.

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/07/02/chinas-latest-xinjiang-spying-smartphone-app-targets-tourists-instead-of-locals/

      2. Persona Bronze badge

        Re: "the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk"

        "Now if China decides to pull something like that" .....

        I for one would be surprised if it didn't

    2. BlueTemplar

      Re: "the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk"

      Well, Google *did* pull out of China...

  6. DougS Silver badge

    I don't think Apple will care

    According to their web site, they don't have any Apple stores in Russia. This law means they'll probably have to stop selling direct to Russians, but that won't stop Russians from buying iPhones.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: I don't think Apple will care

      There are plenty of Apple stores in Russia. They just sell apples: not dodgy computers and phones that lock up and steal all your data.

  7. Maelstorm
    Joke

    And the joke is...

    In Soviet Russia, you do not install the software, the software installs you.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: And the joke is...

      nice one. I was wanting to come up with something like this, you got there first.

      At least it's not as bad as what China appears to want. No, wait...

  8. Maelstorm
    Big Brother

    And now the serious moment is at hand...

    So, what's to stop people from uninstalling the government mandated spyware and installing Google's or Apple's spyware? From what I have seen, Russians are pretty adept when it comes to tech.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: And now the serious moment is at hand...

      The guys that make the Russian apps (or the telcos that sell/rent/whatever the iPhones) will probably make damn well sure that the user can't uninstall them, and, as you said, they're pretty good at tech.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: And now the serious moment is at hand...

        so what if a Russian citizen installs Linux or FreeBSD... and does NOT install "the mandatory thing" ?

        1. BlueTemplar

          Re: And now the serious moment is at hand...

          That would make them traitor to the state and a dirty Kapitalist ! No wait, dirty Kommunist ! Urgh, I'm lost here...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And now the serious moment is at hand...

      So, what's to stop people from uninstalling the government mandated spyware and installing Google's or Apple's spyware?

      The vendors.

      In android based device land, most vendor installed crapwares are under System, which without rooting, oem boot unlocking, fastboot uninstalling, and/or app disabling options available will make it impossible to remove it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And now the serious moment is at hand...

        As vendors undoubtedly get paid to have unremovable stuff on the phones it's in their interests to ensure they are unremovable. Unless the Russian law also mandates that it it will probably be in their interest to make them removable.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What next?

    Foreign travelers to install a "Visit Russia" App during their stay?

    Tracking us in our own country not enough, eh Vlad?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Foreign travelers to install a "Visit Russia" App during their stay?

      you might sneer, but given the way of "progress" in Russia (and China, of course, way ahead of the game) it is _absolutely_ possible that all visitors will, sooner or later, have to install such tracking applications "to ensure their safety, well-being, and enhance their positive image of the country and its people". Install, and have it constantly on, or else.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Foreign travelers to install a "Visit Russia" App during their stay?

        When I was a kid living in 80s Hong Kong, we went on several holiday trips to mainland China. At that time, China was still quite an undeveloped country - I remember watching from one guesthouse window in Guilin City as what seemed like an army of peasants were digging by hand the excavations for a new building next door, climbing up out of the pit on ladders with sacks of dirt over their shoulders - and I think they were extremely suspicious of any Westerners wanting to go on holiday there.

        On that trip, we had two fat CCP goons following us around everywhere we went - never more than 50 metres away, and when we took buses outside of the city, sure enough, when we got to where we were going they'd turn up a few minutes later in their car. I don't know why they were surprised, Guilin is one of the most beautiful areas I've ever visited.

        A few years later, they'd upped their game significantly, once we arrived in Shanghai, this charming English speaking mid-20s girl just attached herself to our group and acted as our de-facto tour guide and was much less obtrusive than the chain smoking fatties. Of course, this might have been down to the differences between Guilin and Shanghai too.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Foreign travelers to install a "Visit Russia" App during their stay?

        That would be a good trick on my Kyocera S3150...

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: What next?

      Foreign travelers to install a "Visit Russia" App during their stay?

      When I visited Russia a dozen years ago foreign visitors were supposed to register their mobile phones upon entry. No-one ever asked me for my number at any stage so I didn't go looking for a kindly policeman* to report myself to. My phone automatically picked up a connection (presumably due to whatever roaming agreement my provider had at the time) and I assumed that would give them all the info on me they wanted.

      * The joke goes that if you want to tell a kind Russian militsia from an unkind one, pick the one who spends his day harassing gypsies rather than the one who is stopping motorists to extort a bribe.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: What next?

      I think China is already going there...

      I'm looking for the article, though, about mandatory installed government services software in China. I saw a news story today about foreign companies NOT being able to encrypt data sent from within China, i.e. the government MUST be able to spy on anything they transmit [or store, for that matter] within the middle kingdom. I'm trying to google-fu for it but seem to fall short on my search results for some reason...

      (don't tell me they're filtering the search engines... ?)

      and I think that may chase a few companies out of China. They'd almost be doing us a favor by driving people out, in my bombastic opinion.

    4. BlueTemplar

      Re: What next?

      Well, to be fair, USA most likely basically "owns" any computer with Google / Microsoft software, or Intel processor, wherever it is in the world - so even if the Russians would do that, they would still be kind of playing in the small leagues...

  10. Grikath

    "backers of the law believe it will raise public awareness about Russian developers."

    So now it's official ransom/spyware, as opposed to the messy and unregulated ransom/spyware from before the law...

    "Apple bods have been anonymously quoted as saying the mandate would "be equivalent to jailbreaking, it would pose a security threat, and the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk."" ( emphasis added)

    The real pain.. We all know how much a fan Apple is of people breaking out of its walled garden...

    "Foreign travelers to install a "Visit Russia" App during their stay?"

    Don't need to.. They can always fall back to the Official Guide employment project of the Good Old Days..

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Ah yes, the old official guide.

      And the old ladies in kiosks on every underground stop watching people.

      Was an interesting visit when I went there in pre Glasnost times

  11. Thoguht Silver badge
    Trollface

    Google will be OK

    Isn't Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin Russian(-ish)?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Google will be OK

      And, as of now, what's that got to do with it?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    give Russian companies a leg up in the domestic market

    with exception of those that hold and publicly proclaim their unpatriotic, i.e. less than favourable opinion about the Russian regime, e.g. Telegram. But then, Telegram's owner is most probably already classed as "foreign agent" (which is Russia and Soviet Union before has had unambiguous meaning). Now, if gospadin Putin and Co could somehow make those millions of Russians un-love Telegram... Perhaps business comrades in China could give a helping hand?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprisingly, the reaction to the passing of the bill has been mixed

    yesterday, some Russian media quoted, with resigned humour, that the Kremlin claimed the new law is... antimonopolistic.

  14. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Par for the course for countries like Russia or China. They allow varying degrees of freedom, but with unexpected (to the western eye) barriers. Don't forget, to paraphrase, one man's right is another man's curtailment. I won't go so far as to say 'respect other cultures' but... it's a different culture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it's a different culture.

      a little ad hitlerum goes a long way (they had "different ideas" about people, you know, nothing wrong with that)

      btw, apparently about 50% of young Russians want to emigrate. But clearly, such results must be fake and / or sponsored by "America" :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it's a different culture.

        to add (and in no way to dilute Putin's awful record), our own, democratic leaders are not above using the same cheap trick if it suits them. Trump recently called that whistleblower a traitor, and Obama did before, re. Snowden, never mind the hapless Assange. UK's pro-brexit politicians, more than once suggested remainers are traitors too, paid by the EU. And then, you have those painted democrats, like Orban in Hungary, also denouncing their opponents as traitors (paid by, what else, Jewish money), or that tin-pot democrat in Turkey, or yet another shit-head in Brazil; for them all around are traitors and plotters. Clearly, millions of average, intelligent (arguably) people around the globe believe such shit, otherwise politicians wouldn't use it to score quick points, and get re-elected.

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What with this and that ( https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/12/03/facial_recognition_visas/ ) once the next HMG has Got Brexit Done (and done we all will be), besides mopping up the damage they'll have a lot of catching up to do with their next Investigative Powers Act.

  16. ForthIsNotDead
    Pint

    To the author of the article...

    ...that is the best headline I've read in a long time (and good article, too). I had to read the headline a couple of times before I got it (must need a coffee) but that is class. Hence --->

    Cheers.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: To the author of the article...

      Yes, very good indeed. Full Marx.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trab-app

  18. phuzz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Could be worse

    Just install a copy of Tetris on every device!

    1. BlueTemplar

      Re: Could be worse

      There's already a copy of Shariki on most of them !

  19. Harry Stottle

    As I was saying...

    only a few minutes ago, here and a few days ago, here

    the biggest enemies of both privacy and liberty are the State, now ably assisted and enabled by the Surveillance Capitalists. Both Russia and China are merely the more overt examples of what is being quickly normalised around the globe.

  20. Bonzo_red

    Putin's app

    Would it be enough to include a Russian originating app "pin the knob on the donkey"?

  21. Someone Else Silver badge

    And in August...

    ...Putin's orange puppet will decree the same (anglophonic) app be installed on all US phones (including landlines that don't support apps...consider the source).

  22. Efer Brick

    Leanin

    and cry-luv

  23. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not like jailbreaking

    Apple flackey says putting on an app would "be equivalent to jailbreaking, it would pose a security threat, and the company cannot tolerate that kind of risk."

    It's not, not at all. Apple, just like Google, doesn't have to give an app full control of the phone just because it's installed on it, Apple in particular heavily restricts what ordinary apps can do, and an app absolutely can be preinstalled and still be an ordinary app.

    That said, obviously I'm not for some country saying the vendor MUST put locally produced apps. Even if it has the best intentions of boosting the local company etc., ask a Canadian sometime about what they think about their requirement to have some percentage locally produced shows on their television networks. (To answer that, some fraction think it's great, supporting local economy etc; the rest comment on how the required number of hours a day exceeds the even reasonably decent locally produced content, so several hours a day are just whatever they can find no matter how bad, instead of being able to import something better to air.)

    The problem I'd see (aside from the assumption that the required apps will be spyware, which although this kind of law is extremely misguided, don't think that's the point of it...), governments are almost invariably slow and inefficient. So once a vendor's app is on this list, what incentive does that vendor have to do, well, anything? They're no longer competing in any kind of free (or restricted) market, they're competing with other apps on a possibly very short list; they don't have to keep their app relevant to users, make any improvements, or even fix bugs at that point. There's probably nothing stopping them then from changing the app from original function to doing nothing but show 50 banner ads when you open it. After all, it'd probably be pulled from the list then, but remember gov't is slow and inefficient, so it'd probably take them months or years to come up with an updated list with that app pulled from it.

  24. Poncey McPonceface
    Devil

    Vladdy Hell !

    That is all …

  25. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Meh

    My house, my rules

    I wonder how one gets to be recognized as an official "Russian Developer?"

    Probably just the programmers, who know the syntax language of Putin++

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