Russia to ban sales of gadgets without local software

From July 2020, smartphones, computers and smart televisions are supposed to have pre-installed Russian software

Russia to ban sales of gadgets without local software Photo: Vereshchagin v

Last week, Russia’s State Duma adopted a new law affecting the country’s IT sector. Although legislators say the bill aims to help Russian people deal with foreign electronics, critics express concerns about possible surveillance and fears that some international companies may leave the Russian market.

Russia has passed a law banning the sale of certain devices, such as smartphones, computers and smart televisions, without pre-installed Russian software, reports BBC. The bill, which was passed by Russia’s lower house of parliament on 21 November, will come into force in July 2020. Devices from other countries will be allowed to have their normal software, but Russian alternatives will also have to be installed.

The legislation is aimed at promoting domestic technology and making it easier for Russian people to use the gadgets they buy. Besides, users “will have a right to choose”, according to one of the bill’s co-authors Oleg Nikolayev. “When we buy complex electronic devices, they already have individual applications, mostly Western ones, pre-installed on them,” said Nikolayev adding that people might think that there were no domestic alternatives available. “If alongside pre-installed applications, we will also offer the Russian ones to users, then they will have a right to choose.”

“When we buy complex electronic devices, they already have individual applications, mostly Western ones, pre-installed on them,” says one of the bill’s co-authors Oleg Nikolayev. Photo: pixabay.com

However, manufacturers and distributors in Russia opposed the legislation. According to the Association of Trading Companies and Manufacturers of Electrical Household and Computer Equipment, it will not be possible to install Russian-made software on some devices. The association also considers that some international companies behind the gadgets may leave the Russian market as a result of the law.

There are also concerns that Russian-made software could be used for surveillance. Overall, Russia has introduced tougher internet control over the last five years, including requiring search engines to delete some search results and calling on messaging services to share encryption keys, says BBC. New Russian internet regulations, or the so-called 'sovereign internet' law, came into force less than a month ago. The law, which is officially aimed to protect the Russian section of the internet from cyberattacks and improve cybersecurity, gives authorities wide-ranging powers to restrict traffic on the Russian web.

A complete list of the gadgets affected and the software that needs to be pre-installed under the new law will be determined by the government.

By Anna Litvina