Russia Bans Electronic Sales Unless Russian Software Is Pre-installed

Russia passes a law that will ban the sale of electronic devices including smartphones, smart TVs, and PCs, that are not pre-installed with Russian-made software.

The law will come into force in July 2020, the BBC reported, and Russia is promoting the law as making it easier for ordinary Russians to use the gadgets they purchase.

But the concern is that by forcing foreign electronic manufacturers to pre-load Russian software, these makers could withdraw from the Russian market. It also comes as Russia tightens its control of the Internet and censorship in general.

Russian-made software

Last month for example it drafted legislation that would permit authorities to block individual email or online messenger users who circulate content that the Russian state has banned.

And now according to the BBC, this new law does not actually ban foreign electronic devices from being sold with their normal software, but Russian “alternatives” also have to be installed.

The legislation was reportedly passed by Russia’s lower house of parliament on Thursday.

The Russian government will draw up a list of those electronic devices that needs to have Russian-made software pre-installed.

“When we buy complex electronic devices, they already have individual applications, mostly Western ones, pre-installed on them,” one bill’s co-authors, Oleg Nikolayev, told Interfax news agency.

“Naturally, when a person sees them… they might think that there are no domestic alternatives available. And if, alongside pre-installed applications, we will also offer the Russian ones to users, then they will have a right to choose,” he reportedly said.

But the law has already drawn criticism from manufacturers and distributors in Russia.

The BBC quoted the Association of Trading Companies and Manufacturers of Electrical Household and Computer Equipment (RATEK) as saying that it will not be possible to install Russian-made software on some devices and that the international companies behind the gadgets may leave the Russian market as a result of the law.

Russian internet

It should be remembered that Russia under President Putin is seeking to disconnect the country from foreign Internet servers.

In May Putin signed a signed a controversial bill that routes Russian web traffic through points controlled by Russian government.

The law had been approved by lawmakers in the State Duma, the Russian equivalent of the Houses of Parliament, despite the protests of thousands of people, concerned it would tighten government controls of the Internet in Russia.

Russian lawmakers had backed the tighter internet controls, as they believe it is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia’s affairs.

Essentially, the law will increase Russian “sovereignty” over its Internet presence, and the legislation has been labelled in the Russian media as the “sovereign internet” bill.

The law will allow Russia to route all Russian web traffic and data through points controlled by the Russian government.

It also proposes building a national Domain Name System (DNS) to allow the internet to continue functioning even if the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

Russian Internet firms had until 1 November to comply with the law.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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