Russian police listen in on nine million calls

privacy       2003-08-08 
Tiny microphones hidden in telephone mouthpieces are passe. Russia eavesdrops digitally.
In a move that has outraged civil rights advocates, Russian intelligence services have gained access to millions of private mobile phone conversations, claiming national security interests.
At least three times over the past year, Russian officials have ordered mobile telephone providers to switch off encryption systems, thereby allowing the Federal Security Service -- the KGB's main successor -- or other agencies to listen in to calls.
The switchoffs weren't announced and phone users were alerted only by the appearance of unfamiliar, and easily ignored, icons on their phone screens. But the most recent switchoffs attracted media attention.
At 9pm on July 8, the Russian Ministry of Communications ordered all mobile phone providers in the Moscow region to switch off their encryption systems for 24 hours.