Russia demands dating app Tinder give user data to secret services

In this photo taken on May 16, 2019, passengers look at their smartphones as they ride a bus in Moscow, Russia. Russia's communications regulator says that Tinder is now required to provide user data to Russian intelligence agencies. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Updated 04 June 2019

Russia demands dating app Tinder give user data to secret services

  • Russia adopted a flurry of legislation in recent years tightening control over online activity
  • A total of 175 online services are on the list requiring them to hand over user data to Russian authorities

MOSCOW: Russia is requiring dating app Tinder to hand over data on its users — including messages — to the national intelligence agencies, part of the country’s widening crackdown on Internet freedoms.
The communications regulator said Monday that Tinder was included on a list of online services operating in Russia that are required to provide user data on demand to Russian authorities, including the FSB security agency.
Tinder, an app where people looking for dates swipe left or right on the profiles of other users to reject or accept them, will have to cooperate with Russian authorities or face being completely blocked in the country. The rule would apply to any user’s data that goes through Russian servers, including messages to other people on the app.
Tinder, which is based in West Hollywood, California, said Monday that it has registered to be compliant with Russian authorities but added that it has “not handed over any data to their government.” But the company did not say whether it plans to do so in the future.
Russia adopted a flurry of legislation in recent years tightening control over online activity. Among other things, Internet companies are required to store six months’ worth of user data and be ready to hand them over to authorities.
Russian authorities last year issued an order to ban messaging app Telegram after it refused to hand over user data. Some top Russian officials, including the FSB chief, attacked Telegram, claiming “extremists” used the platform to plot terrorist attacks.
Despite authorities’ attempt to block Telegram, it is still available in Russia.
Social network LinkedIn has also tried to resist but has been less fortunate. It refused to comply with requirements that personal data on Russian citizens be stored on servers within Russia. In 2016, a court ordered that LinkedIn be blocked.
A total of 175 online services are on the list requiring them to hand over user data to Russian authorities. Most are small websites in Russian regions.
Popular messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger are not on the list. Russian authorities say that is because law enforcement agencies have not approached them for data from those particular apps, but it is widely understood that blocking Facebook and its popular apps like WhatsApp or Instagram would be a big step for regulators.
One of the recent victims of the watchdog’s list was Zello, a voice messaging app popular with Russian truck drivers. Zello was an important tool to mobilize truck drivers protesting against a new toll system in 2015.
After nearly a year of attempts to block the app, Zello became unavailable in Russia last year.

Decoder

Tinder app

Tinder, owned by Match Group and based in West Hollywood, California, allows users to “swipe left” and “swipe right” in their search for suitable dating partners and has millions of users around the world.


Is Trump’s love affair with Fox News fading?

Updated 56 min 13 sec ago

Is Trump’s love affair with Fox News fading?

  • Trump appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a more right-wing rival, cable outfit OANN
  • Since March Trump has tweeted links to OANN stories or shared his appreciation of the network 13 times

WASHINGTON: Last month after Donald Trump watched Fox News lob what he called “softball questions” at a Democratic lawmaker, the US president delivered a crisp smackdown of his favorite network: “Fox sure ain’t what it used to be.”
After years of often fawning coverage by Fox, particularly from its pro-Trump anchors like Sean Hannity, the commander in chief appears to be tilting his media gaze toward a younger, more right-wing rival, cable outfit One America News Network (OANN).
The small upstart broadcaster was launched only recently, in 2013, by technology millionaire Robert Herring, who sought a more conservative alternative to mainstream media behemoths like CNN.
Today it seeks to outfox Fox by drawing extra attention from Trump, who has been voicing his displeasure with the ratings leader over everything from presidential polling to its hosting of Democratic candidate town halls.
Last week in a tweet to his 63 million followers, the president managed to disparage Fox and his mainstream news foil CNN, while heaping praise on the new object of his media affection.
“Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN!” Trump posted.
Since March he has tweeted links to OANN stories or shared his appreciation of the network 13 times.
The relationship has been years in the making. In 2015 Trump was interviewed by Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, when she guest-hosted OANN’s show “On Point.”
At his first press conference as president-elect, in January 2017, Trump took a question from an OANN reporter. OANN was then called on dozens of times at the daily briefings in Trump’s first 100 days in office.
During his June 2018 press conference in Singapore, following the summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump took a question from OANN White House correspondent Emerald Robinson, but not before gushing about her network.
“Thank you for the nice way you treat us. We appreciate it,” he said. “Really, it’s very good. It’s really beautiful what you do.”
The San Diego-based operation describes itself as “straight news, no opinion.” But the pro-Trump agenda is crystal clear, more than a dozen current and former employees told The Washington Post in 2017.
Herring himself, in his pinned tweet, describes OANN as “the president’s favorite new outlet.”
When Fox cut away from broadcasting a Trump rally in New Hampshire on Thursday, Herring tweeted, “We will never cut away!“

Purveyor of conspiracy theories
OANN has faced accusations of promoting conspiracy theories and peddling Kremlin propaganda.
“Yeah, we like Russia here,” a staffer assigned to brief new OANN producer Ernest Champell told him, according to The Daily Beast. Champell left, disillusioned, four months later.
“The network has a history of race-baiting and presenting anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion reporting,” according to Media Matters, a progressive nonprofit group that says its mission is “analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation.”
While OANN’s influence in the White House may far outweigh its position in the news media landscape, Trump clearly retains an affinity for several people in the Fox organization.
The show “Fox & Friends” remains his go-to morning program; Trump has phoned in on numerous occasions as president.
Perhaps that is why Democratic longshot contender Julian Castro purchased ad time during “Fox & Friends” this week, airing a spot in which he directly addresses Trump and blames him for inspiring the El Paso shooter who massacred 22 people early this month.

Trump jealous
Sean Hannity, the network’s popular anchor, appeared alongside Trump at a campaign rally ahead of the 2018 mid-terms.
But friction emerged this week when Hannity expressed support for CNN anchor Chris Cuomo after a video of Cuomo in a heated argument at a New York bar went viral.
It was a sharp contrast to Trump, who tweeted that Cuomo — the brother of New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo — was “nuts” and showed a “total loss of control” in the incident.
The president expressed frustration when Fox aired multiple town halls in recent months featuring Democrats who are trying to unseat him in 2020, including South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, currently fifth in major polling.
“Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete,” Trump tweeted in May. “Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems.”
Fox News presidential polling is also a concern for Trump, whose job approval rating in the network’s mid-August poll dipped substantially, to 43 percent, while his disapproval rating spiked to 56 percent, its highest since October 2017.
In head-to-head matchups, the poll shows Trump losing to major Democratic candidates, including to frontrunner Joe Biden by 12 percentage points and to liberal Bernie Sanders by nine.
Fox polls “have always been terrible to me,” he tweeted in late July.