The coronavirus pandemic has sharply raised the issue of the accelerated digitalization of Russian politics. The digital transformation of Russian enterprises has been going on for seven years. Successful examples include Magnitka, ChTPZ and many other industries. However, if in business the benefits of digitalization are obvious, then the acceleration of the process of transformation of the Russian state itself has given society a slight shock. Octagon spoke with one of the leading Russian IT specialists, CEO of Ashmanov & Partners Igor Ashmanov.
Digital fascism, or digital GULAG, as the liberal public calls it, is a very incomprehensible term. Because he doesn’t explain anything, but he’s very frightening. Everything is there at once: the law on the unified state register, and electronic passes for the duration of the pandemic, and electronic voting, and 5G towers, and everything in a row. Is such digital fascism possible and what's so terrible about it?
- First, let's make a reservation. No liberal public actually fights this very phenomenon. When, for the first time, a real threat to human rights appeared in our country, not a single liberal bastard actually began to do this. Where the noise, in fact, is the same as usually happens when some hipster is arrested for three days for throwing something into the police, an administrative case will be initiated. This will be shouted for two weeks on all channels.
And now, for example, none of our leading, so to speak, liberal human rights defenders have spoken out against this law on a unified population register. In fact, this is very characteristic, because this phenomenon is just important and characteristic of liberal democracies. This is the general registration of the population. If you remember the famous book "1984" Orwell, then for some reason everyone thinks that he wrote it about the USSR. He wrote it about England and about what he did professionally. Namely, brainwashing and tracking everyone. Therefore, it is natural for them. That is why we do not need this.
And yet, what is “digital fascism”, “digital totalitarianism”?
- Now, as we understand, digital devices allow you to monitor each person individually on a one-to-one scale. If earlier the governments of all countries studied their electorate, audience, population using polls, that is, using a general view with a scale, relatively speaking, one in a hundred thousand, trying to understand what the population thinks. Well, they could control citizens with the help of passports and everything else, but not very successfully: to know something about each separately at the level of last name, first name, patronymic, place of residence or work book. Now it is possible to do it with precision to every breath, every movement along the street, every SMS or post on a social network. And at this moment, those in power have a real excitement to do this, because it seems to them that they finally have a magic wand in their hands that will solve all problems in general.
In fact, this is not a liberal problem, it is a problem for all of us. And it is precisely this that should most of all worry those who stand in the position of statesmen, in the positions of conditional patriotism. But I don’t use the word “patriotism”, because patriotism is when you have an order for military actions.
And everything else is just words.
In our opinion, those who were involved in this, this is a very dangerous tendency. There it becomes possible to build such a digital totalitarian system, in which a certain special digital class knows about a person.
A certain class of digital managers is emerging. And these are not even the supreme authorities of the country. It is rather digital clerks and their IT specialists who create this tracking system for everyone.
Why did we fight against this unified population register? Because it is an illusion that it will be owned by some super-decent and super-secret people who firmly know what is allowed and what is not, and will only use it for good.
In the law, which was signed by both the Federation Council and Vladimir Putin, it is assumed that this register will be managed by a civil department - the Federal Tax Service. This means that, in fact, access to this data will be available to civilians who do not have a subscription and a form of secrecy and who, most likely, will not bear serious responsibility if they do not just leak (the leak will be absolutely certain, here at all there are no options, there are no systems without leaks), and even if they manipulate this data in their own interests or the interests of their bosses.
Moreover, the bosses are average, not super-ethical and super-loyal to the state. And bosses, who, as a rule, from the point of view of ethics and loyalty, are the same as all of us or as an average traffic cop on the road. There are good ones, there are bad ones. And they are given absolute digital power.
When we opposed this register, we talked about the fact that before the idea of creating a rating, it’s just one step to start giving people ratings automatically using artificial intelligence.
You know, supporters of such an initiative, as a rule, operate with two things - convenience and safety. That is, why do we need a bunch of pieces of paper, a passport, some SNILS, and so on? You just have an electronic code - ID. You entered - please, all information. You don't need to store anything …
- With regard to security. Let's take a look at the simplest example. I have argued many times in defense of, for example, facial recognition cameras on the streets. In fact, these arguments are exactly the same as about a unified register or a register of the population, which will allow you to catch fraudsters who evade taxes or something else. Migrants are caught, living without a residence permit and work permit, and so on.
So, you can digitize you along with your face and location in two cases. The first case: there is a list of villains wanted by the police, an all-Russian wanted list, and so on. Or some people who cannot be allowed into the country. These are the villains from this black list and must be recognized everywhere: at airports, in squares, in shopping centers. And this does not contradict anything, it does not violate our rights in any way. If our face gets into the recognition system, then it will be compared with the list of villains, with the parameters of their faces. It doesn't bother us.
The second case is when an event of some kind happened: a fight, an accident, a murder, riots, some kind of conflict. It is necessary to recognize, obviously, everyone who was there, relatively speaking, in the temporal-spatial environment, around this event. Let's say you need to recognize 500 meters around and two hours before and two hours after. Or five hours before, never mind.
There is no safety reason to recognize anything outside of these two cases. When, instead, they automatically recognize everyone on a massive scale, “because it’s useful,” “just in case,” this is complete rudeness and a violation of all possible rights of citizens.
Therefore, the arguments for both convenience and safety are crafty. Why are they used? Because, oddly enough, officials and IT specialists who serve them have a passion. It seems to them that it is very cool to collect the most complete database about everyone.
When they talk about databases, the names of Western giants come up: Amazon, Oracle, Google and so on. Do we, in Russia, have domestic databases and tools for their processing? Or do we form them with the help of Western instruments? How is this happening now?
- Let's not be confused.There is such an understanding of the term "database" as a software product - a database management system, which are also called databases. This is Oracle or the domestic Linter database, or some semi-domestic companies. They are just software products. 1C also has its own database, which allows you to enter large amounts of information and quickly work with them: record, delete, modify.
And there are actually databases, which no matter what platform they are running on, which contain the actual data and with which you can work: compare data, analyze this data. This is now called big data. Due to the fact that these are specific arrays of information about people that cannot be viewed with our eyes, they require automatic processing, and we have learned to work with them. Quite a large number of players collect databases, primarily about people. There are large databases of stars or whale migrations, but they are of little interest to anyone, except for narrow specialists. Everyone is interested in people. Because where there is a database of people, there is money, power, influence - whatever you want. These bases are collected primarily by Internet giants.
The wider your range of services, the wider the data that you can collect about a person. Relatively speaking, Google also has a search engine with search queries that say a lot about a person. It has an Android operating system that knows which apps you are using. He has mail, advertising systems that work on almost any site in our country and in the world. There is a huge amount of different services, data from which are brought together.
The Android system, for example, is clearly listening to conversations. I saw such a case yesterday. Out of the blue, someone at our table on the terrace asked about the Mormons. We talked for five minutes about who Mormons are. The wife opens the computer, she has a Google advertisement about Mormons.
Nothing like this had happened before for several years, Google did not think to show her such ads. There is quite a lot of research on what and how they listen. And Facebook is listening through the speaker. Yes, and Yandex, I think, is starting to do this. This is all about the fact that the more channels you use to analyze people, the more you have the opportunity to bring these channels together.
Where did our developers get such confidence in their abilities? Recently, the Association of Russian Developers called on the Russian government to ignore Microsoft's offer to give government agencies free products for a year. As far as I understand, we still cannot completely replace Western products
- This is not true. Let's talk about this situation, I know about it indirectly. Microsoft announced a kind of dumping - that it is ready to provide some of its products, including cloud ones, for free. In fact, Microsoft, which has an infinitely deep pocket in comparison with our developers, may, and it did sometimes, dump for years, squeezing out their entire market in order to enter it later. Because our market is not very important for her in monetary terms. It is the tenth, perhaps, in size. That is, this is the second or third category market for Microsoft. Therefore, she can simply distribute food for free here for a while to grab it.
There is a law that instructs government agencies to buy domestic software, but it is also quite crafty, because it says there is a domestic analogue. If there is no analogue, you need to write a justification why you bought the western one. It is easy to imagine what this will result in.
Firstly, tender assignments are written in such a way that there are the most ridiculous functions of a software product, which are not in domestic, but are in Western ones.
Relatively speaking, Microsoft Word has 450 different functions, of which 30 or 40 are used in real life. The rest is practically not needed by anyone in government organizations, they are very exotic.At the same time, we have domestic software products - text editors, a word processor, as they are called, which supports, say, not 450 functions, but 50 functions. functions that those do not have.
It turns out that the IT industry is somewhat similar to the army? If you don't want to feed yours, will you feed someone else's?
- We feed the stranger in the main. And somehow we refuse to feed ours. There, you know, what a crafty argument: we will buy domestic, if it is cheaper and better in functionality. How to make a product that will be cheaper and more functional than that of Microsoft - a company that is worth one and a half trillion dollars on the market and which has annual revenues of hundreds of billions, in my opinion? That is, the conversation is like this: let's release into the ring Mike Tysonand a third-grade student from the 10th grade of the school, because the ring will decide everything in an honest way. For some reason, there are weight categories in sports, but not here. And in general, what then is the favor of the domestic one, if you are ready to buy what you already wanted, what is cheaper and better? In general, there is a lot of deceit there, and it is really supported by bribes from the Western information industry.
Does the law oblige you to store data about Russians at home?
- For Internet companies, for those who process large personal data of citizens, there is such a law. Unfortunately, you don't have to do it. That is, until now, Google, Facebook, and so on, this law is not enforced. They really have a gigantic amount of personal data of our citizens, but they consider themselves to be under American jurisdiction and not obliged to comply with Russian laws.
It's just that no one is at risk, because our officials are media-dependent: they are afraid that they will not be called democrats. And let companies do whatever they want. I even heard such a statement in the corridors of power: “Well, what are you doing? YouTube banned! People will take to the streets! They are used to watching videos! We cannot do this!"
We tried to make analogs - Rutube is the same. But with us it all somehow turns out crookedly. Don't you think?
- It’s not a “crooked” thing, but the fact that you need to invest money. YouTube servers likely have tens of billions of dollars worth - millions of servers, most likely. If you are trying to distribute videos at the same rate, even within our country, you have to invest in it. Naturally, if you don’t invest and pretend that this is such a commercial project and not a political one, that it should make money on its own, be profitable, and so on, then your video will play out more slowly, which means that no one will watch it..
You are talking about money. Our IT specialists are second only to managers in terms of salaries. Why then do they mostly leave? Are these market mechanisms not working in our country? Can't we offer them the same thing, or at least replace them with something similar?
- This vacuum cleaner was built deliberately. And it is full of myths in fact. I spoke once with the head of our largest community Data Scientist - machine learning specialists, big data, artificial intelligence. This is a community in which there are now more than 50 thousand specialists who actually work in this area. They are mostly Russian-speaking: most are from Russia, some from Belarus, some from Ukraine. They deliberately compiled a table that in the material sense a specialist wins when he leaves for the United States.
A sober look at these things shows that he may not even win, but lose.
The salary there will be three times higher, sometimes four times. But at the same time taxes are wild and the cost of living is high. As a result, a guy who comes there, who rented a nice apartment here, rents a room there with someone else. And, generally speaking, for the money it turns out absolutely not honey.But no one thinks about it: that the kindergartens are expensive, that there is a wild stratification there and that you will live in an area where shooting and selling drugs are constantly going on across the street. They only talk about salaries.
Film Dudya - you've probably heard - about how cool it is in Silicon, Silicon Valley. He took only the winners in this casino, there are no interviews with the losers, and there are a hundred times more of them. This is such propaganda: people are shown huge winnings. They say: “Here! You can too! " You can, yes. With a probability of 0.1 percent. That is, a huge propaganda system has been built there.
But look. Recently Nikita Mikhalkov touched upon the topic of chipization. How serious is it? It seems to people that a chip embedded in a person will become the ideal identifier for complete digitalization, the digital transformation of the state
- I didn’t listen to him. I have only heard retellings of what he told in this "Besogon" of his. Chips are a horror story of the 20th century, outdated by 30 years. With these hundreds of thousands of cameras on the streets and roads, no identification chip is needed anymore. Everything has already been done, identification is already in progress. Why chip then? For what? To scare the Mikhalkovs and other elderly humanitarians? It's pointless!
That is, the digital hell has already been built. Do you understand, huh? And chipping is simply not necessary. Just like this vaccination and everything.
These are some kind of strange horror stories, which, in my opinion, if not yet used, then can be used to marginalize this whole topic. So that when someone later says: “Listen! Why do you identify us all? Store huge databases, recognize faces?”, One could answer:“Ah! You're like Mikhalkov! You're just an idiot of the denier sect! What are we going to talk to? You are a conspiracy theorist! This is all abnormal! Just for grandmothers! That's it, we close the discussion! " This helps to marginalize this very important topic.
Look: data is collected, stored! Is it possible to protect 100 percent of this data from leakage? Is it even possible in theory? Or is there no system that cannot be broken, hacked, and so on?
- It is impossible to protect, and one must understand that, firstly, systems that are 100% protected are an illusion, a fairy tale. Leaks always happen. Their number is growing now. Most companies that store large amounts of user data are seen leaking. It's just that all companies in the world, sooner or later, leak. Moreover, the same FTS leaked 20 million tax records last year. The FTS did not admit this. However, this was precisely the tax data. They walked around the market, you could buy them. What is being done with them now is unknown.
InfoWatch General Director Natalya Kasperskaya and Head of Ashmanov & Partners Igor Ashmanov during a business breakfast on the topic: "Russian IT / Internet Industry: Investments and Business Climate" at the 17th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo by ITAR-TASS / Petr Kovalev
Secondly, the problem is not technical security. 90-odd percent of leaks are the fault of insiders. That is, through the fault of the one who has access to this data. And how to protect yourself from insiders, who will guard the watchmen, is absolutely incomprehensible. Because now you will create a powerful system for the distribution of access rights to this data, which will create a different level of access rights for everyone. The aunt from the MFC - one, the mayor - another, the mayor's IT specialist - the third. But there will be a person who will write this system of distribution of rights, there will be a clerk who will appoint these rights. As you can imagine, he will assign himself any rights. It can be checked by an external audit, FSB officers can be sent to inspect who has what rights, etc. But in any case, there will always be loopholes. Therefore, this data will always have the potential to be in the wrong hands. That's for sure!
People are usually interested in what concerns them directly.Let's imagine that this digital transformation is complete. As you say, digital hell is already here. If suddenly there is some kind of failure in the system and the owner, for example, of a person's apartment, becomes another person. How can he prove that it's just a glitch? This scares people the most
- People will not be protected from this, of course. My wife Natalya Kasperskaya participated and is now participating in the group on the preparation of amendments to the Constitution. There was a restriction that it was impossible to change the first two chapters, because the referendum procedure was very complicated for them. Therefore, it was impossible to change the chapter on human rights in particular. We proposed to create a digital chapter of the Constitution. We were told that this will not fail either. As a result, only one amendment passed there, stating that the circulation of these citizens is a serious state matter, it should be under federal jurisdiction, and so on.
But, from my point of view, we need a Digital Code that describes the new legal relationships that are emerging in this new digital environment.
It may be done. The head of this group on amendments to the Constitution Krasheninnikov spoke about the fact that we can create another pack of constitutional laws. This is a special kind of laws, one of which can be this Digital Code. But whether it is done or not, we'll see. But in such a code, of course, there should be a person's right to their digital identity. That is, to protect it, to own it and to be protected by the state.
Moreover, there is a gap. In about six years you will be able to see what data about you are entered in the register. And they will start using it in two years. That is, there will be four years or more of data about you, but you will not know which ones, you will not be able to correct them, you will not be able to oppose anything to this. And then, most likely, you will not be able to delete the data about your children from this database. And children, a family - this is what loves to use criminals very much. That is, there are many such holes that, in theory, should be filled with this Digital Code, which, it is not known, will appear in our country or not.