Russian surveillance for 2014 Olympics would monitor phone and Internet usage

Josh Peterson Contributor
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Travelers heading to watch the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia can expect to be watched closely by the Russian intelligence community.

The Guardian and the Telegraph reported on Russian plans to conduct “near-total surveillance” of visitors and athletes at the Olympics with Russia’s Sorm system, which intercepts phone and Internet communications — including allowing the FSB to track “the use of sensitive words or phrases mentioned in emails, webchats and on social media.”

The Guardian noted on Sunday that a recent U.S. State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Service leaflet warned business travelers “should be particularly aware that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other sensitive information may be taken and shared with competitors, counterparts, and/or Russian regulatory and legal entities.”

Government surveillance at the Olympics is not unheard of; the event poses a sizable target for terrorists, as proven by the Munich Massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics and the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

According to a Aug. 2013 report in the Telegraph, Saudi Prince Bandahar bin Sultan — head of Saudi intelligence — hinted to Russian President Vladimir Putin at possible Chechen terrorist attacks during the Olympics if a deal over the Syrian civil war could not be reached.

At the London 2012 Summer Olympics, security measures included surveillance drones, CCTV cameras “with automatic facial and behaviour recognition technologies,” biometric scanners and the monitoring of electronic communications, according to a February 2012 piece in the Guardian.

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