Article C4 of the Media Intervention Plan on "Internet Freedom in Uzbekistan" for 2022 by the report of the Freedom House international non-governmental organization

02.09.2022 11:23

Does the government impose restrictions on anonymous connections or encryption?

Annex No.2 to the letter of

the Uzkomnazorat State Inspectorate

doc. No.257 Only For Internal Use

dated July 27, 2022

Unofficial translation

Does the government impose restrictions on anonymous connections or encryption?

With the advent and development of technology, personal data is becoming more and more widely available. In modern digital reality, such information can be used against a person. Therefore, states around the world are trying to protect the personal data of their citizens.

Millions of Internet users around the world deploy virtual private networks (VPNs) or proxy servers to access the Internet — the tools that allow people to bypass traditional connections and tracking methods to use the Internet through a remote server.

It should be noted that the use of anonymizers and VPN services is not secure. First of all, there is a risk of interception of information on the Internet, especially when transmitting confidential data — for example, access codes, various passwords and other confidential information. At the same time, it is necessary to pay attention to the VPN service provider, when using unverified VPNs, there is a significant risk of interception of confidential information.

When connecting to VPN services, an encrypted tunnel is created between the computer and the endpoint server, which gives the user a new IP-address (probably in another country) and ensures that the ISP or local administrator does not decrypt the Internet traffic of the network.

Thus, it can be noted that the inappropriate dissemination of information has negative consequences for the state and society, such as threats and risks to security, leakage of confidential and personal data, as well as the consequences of fraud using this data.

An analysis of rapidly developing countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil and Saudi Arabia shows that the level of use of VPN services and anonymizers is about 40% of the audience.

China closely monitors the development of VPN services. Despite the fact that the Beijing authorities claim to regularly block a large number of VPN resources, the level of banned VPN services and anonymizers in the country is about 28% of the adult online audience.

In the United States, the main prohibitions usually related to the distribution of pirated content. However, the use of anonymizers and VPN-services in the United States, as well as in Europe, is not prohibited at the legislative level.

Despite this, the large companies, such as Netflix, are taking the measures against the use of proxies, VPN-services and anonymizers to access to contents not intended for their country. Considering that VPN-services are specifically designed to hide the data of end-users, the Netflix only blocks the IP-addresses of VPN-providers and blacklists them.

In 2020, the European Commission started discussion the issue of geo-blocking, the use of which for commercial purposes has been prohibited since 2018. However, geo-blocking is allowed to protect intellectual property.

In 2021, the European Union issued fines Valve and five game publishers: Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax. Publishers have been accused of the artificial territorial restrictions on the use of software in one country after selling it in another.

According to the Law "On Communications" of the Russian Federation, the means of circumventing the blocking of illegal content are recognized as a threat. The Center for Monitoring and Management of the Public Communication Network takes measures to restrict the operation of VPN-services that violate the law on the territory of the Russian Federation. In 2022, mass blocking of anonymizers is observed in the country.

The Republic of Belarus has approved the Regulations on the procedure for restricting access to information resources (their constituent parts) posted on the global computer network of the Internet. According to this document, ISPs are obliged to block not only prohibited sites from the blacklist, but also software and hardware tools to bypass their blocking, such as anonymizers, proxy servers and anonymous networks.

Is the use of VPN-services and anonymizers in the Republic of Uzbekistan prohibited at the legislative level? This question can be answered by analyzing the reaction of users of social networks to the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Amendments to certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan" (No.ZRU-503 of October 22, 2018) on the protection of telecommunications networks from unauthorized access. This Law is still the subject of many disputes and discussions in the information space.

The new edition of the Law introduces amendments to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in particular, the Article 2783 — Manufacturing for the purpose of sale or sale and distribution of special means to obtain illegal (unauthorized) access to a computer system, as well as to telecommunications networks.

This addendum is aimed at combating suppliers of special software or hardware for illegal (unauthorized) access to information resources and telecommunications networks.

When using VPN and anonymizers, the international traffic still passes through the main security systems of the telecommunications network itself, and the provider has the ability to charge this traffic.

The Law has made additions to Article 1552 of the Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Liability. These changes are directed against persons who illegally gain access to the telecommunications network. For example, against individuals who have hacked and connected to other people's Wi-Fi networks and used their Internet traffic, which is actually theft.

An erroneous opinion is dominated in discussions in social networks and the media that the Law prohibits the use of VPNs, various proxy servers, messengers or social networks. However, the introduced amendments and addendas do not consider the issues of restricting access to information and/or information resources. The Law also does not affect the use of VPN and proxy servers for obtaining information, for private purposes or for business.

All reforms implemented in Uzbekistan are based on universal principles enshrined in the Constitution, according to which the highest value is the human being, his life, freedom, honor, dignity and other inalienable rights.

According to the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On informatization", the main directions of state policy in the field of informatization are the followings:

- the realization of the constitutional rights of every citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan to freely receive and disseminate information, ensuring access to information resources;

- the creation of all favorable, comprehensive conditions for access to international information networks and Internet worldwide information network.

Today, large-scale measures are being implemented in our country to ensure reliable protection of rights and freedoms, respect for the honor and dignity of the individual. Their results can be seen in the high milestones achieved in recent years, the improvement of the welfare of the people, the growth of the country’s authority around the world.

As part of the reforms realized by the President of Uzbekistan, the country pays special attention to improving the culture of citizens using information and communication tools, preventing violations of privacy related to the disclosure of personal and confidential information on the Internet, as well as creating a system to combat cybercrime. In particular, the relevant ministries and agencies in Uzbekistan are currently working on creating conditions for the free access to foreign social networks and messengers on the territory of the republic.

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