Olympic Concerns: Security, Surveillance, and LGBT Reception

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Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama

With the Winter Olympics just over two weeks away, most international attention has been focused on the security of Sochi, Russia, the planned  location for the Olympics. The so-called “black widow” suicide bomber threats — three suspected women still being sought by Russian authorities — continue to be a concern, as do other extremists groups and members threatening the events.

There are two new items to add to the list of 2014 Winter Olympic concerns. One may be a direct result of the measures being put in place to prevent terrorist attacks — the increase in security has some questioning the privacy of those in attendance at the events. Agenturu.ru, a Russian based community of journalists that monitors international spying and intelligence, released a report listing concerns regarding the Olympic surveillance to be set up in Sochi. The report notes that Russia’s main communications monitoring system — SORM — has seen changes recently that would allow the program to “capture telephone and mobile phone communications,” while a secondary aspect “intercepts Internet traffic, and SoRM-3 collects information from all forms of communication, providing long-term storage of all information and data on subscribers, including actual recordings and locations.”

The Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs Committee of European Parliament, also known as LIBE, made an inquiry into “Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens” on it’s Wednesday agenda in order to “exchange of views on the Russian communications interception practices” — specifically SORM.

The United States Bureau of Consular Affairs noted possible personal privacy issues in its notice to citizens headed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Russia. “Travelers should be aware that Russian Federal law permits the monitoring, retention, and analysis of all data that traverses Russian communication networks, including internet browsing, e-mail messages, telephone calls, and fax transmissions,” reads the privacy note.

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