Peter Lekarev, Oct 19, 2011

The Russian Internet Week, or RIW-2011 kicks off Wednesday, October 19th. This week will take only 3 days though, but it’s promising to be the Internet-event of 2011 in Russia. The expo will cover pretty much every Internet-related activity, including online advertisement, web development, search engine optimization, social networks, online security, intellectual property rights and much, much more.

This annual conference was first held in 2008, so it’s a relatively young player on the worldwide IT arena. To be fair, Internet in Russia is also quite young, and despite being with us since the 90s, it’s only recently started to be an indivisible part of our lives, hence the sparking interest in all things online.

Anyway, the expo actually opened Tuesday, October 18th with the ‘day zero’ – I guess that’s a nod to all the programmers out there that start counting with 0, not 1. Actually, the organizers suggested this was not initially planned – simply, there was not enough time to fit everything they wanted to in three short days. Day zero was solely dedicated to the burning issue of copyrights. It was not all recording company lobby, too – the conference was called ‘Internet and Law: seeking a balance’. It was opened by a Microsoft lawyer Jule Sigall, who shared his company’s experience in working with digital content and tools that Microsoft uses to protect intellectual property. Other participants were members of Mail.Ru Group, Google and Kaspersky Lab. The main initiator of this day zero event was The Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC), specifically, their legal department. IT and law-related governmental bodies also participated in the event, aimed at making Russian Internet a little more, you know, orderly and codified, if you will.

The main event starts October 19th, as I’ve said – actually, it’s kind of like two events in one: there’s the largest Russian conference for Internet professionals ‘RIW-2011′ and a more general IT-related expo ‘Internet-2011′. The actual RIW conference has a traditional common section, open for all registered members, and a number of sub-sections, aimed at specific field professionals, six sections per day, from 11am to 6pm.

The whole ‘Start-ups’ thing is a pretty trendy concept these last few years, and usually they mean digital start-ups. RIW does reflect that as not one, but two formats will be dedicated to young aspiring companies – there’s the ‘Innovation Alley’ with booths of companies that won the ‘UpStart Conf’. And, of course, by the end of the expo new best start-ups will be chosen and awarded. Awards will include not just pride and sense of achievement – but real funds to get the projects off the ground and into our computers and mobile devices.  Rising popularity of online devices used as a portal to the world wide web has been also addressed by the organizers – there’s a special section dedicated to web services for these small gadgets.

Oh, and if you don’t know yet, online advertisement is a rapidly growing business – at least in Russia, Internet ad market has been steadily growing throughout the recession, unlike the traditional TV and print markets. TV still gets the largest share of the pie, financially speaking, but in terms of growth the online medium beats every other one. So this year, instead of creating a section for online ads, it’s basically discussed non-stop. Oh, and somewhat related issues of e-trade and e-money have special sections along with workshops hosted by representatives of the major players, such as WebMoney, QIWI and Yandex.Money. Online superstores like Amazon are still not in the scope of either the conference or the Russian market – it’s just not the way people shop online in Russia.

Now, of course online services are not just for regular users. Hence, expert sections will not only cover B2C, but also B2B and B2G, with roundtables discussing the all the intricacies of cooperation between internet and cellphone service providers, end users, online corporations and related government bodies.

This last part is pretty important, as Sergey Plugotarenko from the  Russian Association for Electronic Communications admitted such an open and ‘to the point’ discussion on the interconnection of law and IT has never before happened. The issue of intellectual property rights is actually no less important than advertisement it seems – after all, just like in advertisement, there’s big money in there.  In the framework of the Russian Internet Week 2011 a special manifesto, no less, will be presented. It’s called ‘Russian Internet in the 21st century: Copyrights’. This manifesto reflects the official standpoint of Russian copyright owners and other organizations on the issues of intellectual property rights. All existing problem spots are identified, and the manifesto will supposedly even propose 15 suggestions to improve the existing Russian legislation, or, rather, lack thereof.

But anyway, the 3-day week has just begun, so there’s not much to talk about in this regard – I will dedicate a special program to it next week. For now, let’s return to the here and now. And now, it seems, property rights and personal information protection is a big deal everywhere, even in countries with established legislation dealing with the digital medium.

Computer scientists at Stanford University recently released the results of an interesting research. Apparently there’s information leaks everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Oh, you’re thinking, just don’t go to seedy websites and don’t give out personal information to untrustworthy websites. Well, sure, this might work, but only in a perfect world. For instance, if you type a wrong password into the login section at the The Wall Street Journal website, it turns out that your e-mail address is sent out to seven unrelated Web sites that you didn’t sign up for or even knew about. Or, say, sign on to NBC. Likewise, seven other companies will know your e-mail address and at least partial online interests. So you’re browsing while logged in and happen to click on an ad? Well, congratulations! Your first name and user ID are instantly revealed to 13 other companies. Click on a link from Reuters to confirm your registration – boom, you’ve given away your address and the fact that you’ve signed up to Reuters to five strangers. See, that’s not an exception – it’s a tendency! Overall, the research uncovered such leaks in 185 popular websites across the web. A lot of popular websites seem to give away your personal information to a number of third parties, usually advertisements that can then monitor your activity of affiliated websites and bombard you with special offers designed specifically for you.  “It’s a fact of life on the Web. Identity will leak to a third party,” said the study’s principal author, Jonathan Robert Mayer, a law and computer science student. What he didn’t say is what people can do about it. I guess, nothing. Well, at least someone is concerned about the leaks. Not to specific third parties from specific websites, but a massive leak that happened in the Russian cyberspace a few weeks ago. See, there’s this website, called Rusleaks, that boasted an immense collection of data on Russian citizens in searchable format.

Roskomnadzor – the watchdog organization in all things telecommunications was not too happy with this ‘leaky’ website. According to an investigation performed by the organization, information provided on the website and its mirrors indeed came from open sources. Well, parts of it. Other parts were taken from illegally-distributed databases with personal information of millions of Russian citizens. These databases can by procured with relatively little effort, but that doesn’t make them any more legal. Although, thankfully, these databases are available for sale or download only after they’ve been inactive for a few years – in other words, the ones made available through RusLeaks website were last updated in 1999-2007. Still, even so, extensive data available for each citizen – First and Last name, date and place of birth, passport number could get into the wrong hands and cause severe damage to regular law abiding citizens if used by unsavory digital criminals.


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