Data leaks may be response to new privacy laws

The mass private data leaks into Russian search engines may have been deliberate, suggest media reports.

According to the reports, the leaks are a response to a newly-signed toughening of the privacy law designed to make companies working on the internet increase security.

The new rules mean the companies will have to spend much more money on tackling privacy issues than before.

“Given the mass character of the revelations, it could easily be a conspiracy,” said head of Duma Information Policy Committee, Sergey Zheleznyak. “We only need to understand whom it would benefit.”

In recent days, there have been several serious leaks of personal data into different search engines.

Firstly, thousands of personal SMS text messages became available to view online for some time on Yandex and Google. By entering a particular phone number or a special request, one could see the full texts of personal text messages and the phone numbers of the receivers, as well as the date they were sent.

Secondly, more than 80 online stores, among them sex shops, have leaked sensitive information about their clients. The leaked data includes customers’ home and e-mail addresses, purchasing histories and receipts. Fifteen of the leaks have been classified as serious.

Finally, search engines gobbled the data on Russian Railways e-tickets, including ticket numbers, chosen routes, and the dates and names of the passengers.

It was reported that a range of important government documents were also leaked – this time to Google, but all the ministries concerned denied this information. The materials “leaked” to the search engine, the officials say, were already in the public domain.

Russia’s Prosecutor’s Office is now looking into all the cases. The Interior Ministry said it is ready to assist the investigation. State Duma deputies have promised to compile a law that will help punish organizations for such leaks in the future.

“The incident shows that those responsible for the leaks save money at the expense of security,” said Sergey Zheleznyak. “Together with the law enforcement bodies and the consumer rights watchdogs we will analyse what caused the situation.”

The search systems say the ones to blame are the sites that did not pay enough attention to protecting their data from search robots.

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