Not to be outdone by the sheer magnitude of the NSA's PRISM program, Russia's FSB security service is preparing to monitor every single communication made by competitors and spectators alike during the 2014 winter games in Sochi, according to a report by The Guardian.
The system, called Sorm, will be supported through new infrastructure installed by various security companies. It will allow FSB full access to telephone and internet data, plus keyword tracking for flagged words and phrases in emails and chats or on social media. The Guardian worked with Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan to obtain the government documents that lay out the operation.
The scope and scale of Russian surveillance are similar to the disclosures about the US programme but there are subtle differences to the regulations. We know from Snowden's disclosures that many of the checks were weak or sidestepped in the US, but in the Russian system permanent access for Sorm is a requirement of building the infrastructure.
It seems that FSB has been preparing since 2010 to ensure total access during the games, and the U.S. State Department is already warning American travelers about surveillance at the Olympics. The Guardian and Deibert point out that gay rights may be a central focus of the surveillance given Russia's controversial laws about "homosexual propaganda."
Just through its existence, Sorm may discourage discussion and planned demonstrations/protests. Today Vladimir Putin officially sent the Olympic torch on its year-long trip around Russia, and talked in a speech about his country's "openness and friendship." And visitors will definitely be able to feel that spirit. Just by being at the games, they'll be volunteering a whole lotta "openness." [The Guardian]