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Russia To Ask Phone Vendors To Pre-install Russian Apps Before Shipment From Next Year

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Russia has formally passed a law forbidding the sale and shipment of electronic gadgets including smartphones that don’t have Russian software pre-installed in a move that it says is to protect its indigenous tech companies.

The law which is set to become effective beginning July 1, 2020 will drive electronic hardware sold in Russia to come with Russian apps although it is not clear what specific apps would be on what type of hardware. So, they are yet to define what pre-installed apps should ship with say smart TVs, computers and smartphones.

To this end, the Russian government is expected publish what pre-installed software must ship with what devices at a later date hopefully before the end of the year or in the first quarter of next year at the latest to allow for ample time for the hardware to be prepared for the Russian market.

The bill gained the support of Russia’s parliament (the Duma) members even as it was introduced earlier this month and quickly gained support.

As with any other bill in Russia, its has to pass all three votes in the lowers house (equivalent of the House of Representatives in the United States or the House of Commons in Britain and then it will be sent to the Council of the Federation, the upper house and only then will it be passed to the Russian President Vladimir Putin where it is expected to be signed into law.

This is seen as a move by Russia to tighten its grip on the internet traffic in the country. Russia passed what’s known as the “sovereign internet” law that plans to divert Russian web traffic through Russian state-controlled routes thereby expanding government control in ways that will make them decide to switch off internet connections within its borders. This is similar to what governments like those of Iran are doing currently.

Failure to comply with the new law will earn the vendor a 200,000 RUB or $3,000 fine but to make it worse, repeat offenders will eventually be banned.

Russia had fined Google about $7.8 million two years ago when the Russian search engine company Yandex accused the American internet giant of anti-competition practices particularly in the area of forcing phone makers to pre-install its apps on Android devices.

The European Union fined Google on similar grounds last year too.

The new Russian law raises concerns of surveillance and censorship but Russia claims it is to protect and grow its tech companies against increasing foreign competitors.

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