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HRW: Russia's Proposed 'Uniform Federal Database' Would Threaten Right To Privacy

A proposed new law to create a "uniform federal database" in Russia infringes on the right to privacy and weakens protection of personal data for the country's entire population, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, adopted the draft law on May 21. The legislation is to enter into force after it is endorsed by the upper chamber, the Federation Council, and President Vladimir Putin.

Backers of the bill say it aims at ensuring reliability and consistency of data countrywide, but Anastasia Zlobina, coordinator for Europe and Central Asia at HRW, said in a statement on May 26 that the proposed database "runs contrary to the data protection principles enshrined both in national legislation and international agreements Russia is a party to."

"The uniform database concept allows the government to store excessive amounts of data indefinitely as well as share it with governmental agencies without a person’s explicit consent," Zlobina said.

Such a database would also jeopardize "security of personal data, gathering it all in one place rather than storing it in a decentralized way," she added.

According to Zlobina, the federal database would contain personal data of everyone living in Russia, including birth certificates, passport details, marital status, education, residence permits abroad, employment, and taxpayer information.

It would be run by the Federal Tax Service but other government agencies would feed into it, and the data could be shared with law enforcement, such as courts and prosecutors.

Russian laws currently prohibit merging databases collected for different purposes and forbids excessive collection and storage of data -- "meaning anything collected must be directly related to what the data will be used for," Zlobina said, adding that these principles are enshrined in the Council of Europe's Convention 108 for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, which Russia is a party of.

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