Spy gadgets defined: It’s now legal to track pets & peek on your cows in Russia
Russian legislators have amended the controversial penal code article on “spy gadgets,” making it way less ambiguous and defining what exactly constitutes an illegal device. Now, you can safely “spy” on your dog or baby.
The amendments to the article were approved by the State Duma on Thursday. Before the changes, the article penalized procurement of quite vague “special technical means for clandestine collection of information” –basically anything with a small camera, microphone or GPS might have been deemed to be illegal.
It all started with a cow. The law on spy gadgets came into the media spotlight back in 2017, when a Russian farmer, Yevgeny Vasiliev, got into legal trouble after buying a small GPS tracker. The farmer needed the device to monitor a rowdy calf, who liked to wander away, yet decided to save money and order it online from China. Vasiliev was apprehended by a Federal Security Service (FSB) operative just when he received his $7 GPS tracker and never got a chance to actually “spy” on his misbehaving cattle.
RT brought the case to the attention of President Vladimir Putin during his annual Q&A session back in 2017. Putin was quite surprised that one could get prosecuted over “spying” on his own cow and ordered an inquiry into how exactly this law was enforced.
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All the charges against the cow-spying farmer Vasiliev were ultimately dropped and the prosecutor’s office apologized to him for the trouble. The issue was also analyzed by the Supreme Court – it ruled in late 2018 that not all “spy devices” were necessarily professional tools for some malicious activities and advised other courts to treat cases involving the now-fixed article very carefully.
Now, the legislation only bans devices, created specifically to covertly gather information about someone without their knowledge – for actual spying, basically. Gadgets, that allow tracking, geolocation, photo and video capturing, yet have visible controls and markings, explaining their purpose are not subject to the ban from now on.
Basically, a dog tracker or a baby monitor is fine, while a pen with a hidden camera is not. The punishment for procuring illegal gadgets remains unchanged and a “spy pen” could land one behind bars for up to four years.
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