ALMATY -- The Russian State Duma is considering a draft law that would tighten regulation of the taxi industry and require ride-hailing apps to give the Federal Security Service (FSB) access to databases containing customer information.
"A taxi-ordering service must provide the Russian Federation's Federal Security Service with automated remote access to information systems and databases used to receive, store, process and transfer taxi orders, in the manner established by the government of the Russian Federation," the draft reads.
If the bill becomes law, the data that will become available to the FSB will include information about passenger trips and luggage, the taxi's location and the driver.
The bill also proposes tightening requirements on taxi drivers.
In particular, if a citizen loses driving privileges and then regains them after the sentence expires, he or she may work as a taxi driver after passing an additional one-year "probationary period".
The bill seeks to prohibit taxi driving by applicants with more than three traffic fines.
Ride-hailing apps also will face more complicated work if the law takes effect. They will be required to open offices in all provinces where their services are available, each province will maintain a registry of taxi drivers and the number of working taxis will be limited.
Taxi companies will have to enter into contracts with their drivers and be liable for harm to passengers if the driver lacks a valid permit.
The latest effort comes after Roskomnadzor, which regulates the mass media and information technology, in January added the ride-hailing app Yandex.Taxi to its registry of information dissemination organisers.
The Kremlin closely tracks websites on the registry, which includes the social networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, the image board 2ch.hk, the email client Mail.ru, and dozens of other services, Global Voices reported in 2017.
The app is now obliged to collect and store user data, as well as provide it to law enforcement and intelligence agencies upon request, in accordance with Russian law.
'Restrictive and costly'
Citymobil, an online service that enables users to hail cabs and to share cars and scooters, objected to the bill, saying it "largely replicates previously rejected versions, including those that received negative reviews from market participants".
The company does not store users' travel data and the bill should not "introduce restrictive and costly measures for industry participants that will be difficult to implement in current economic conditions", a Citymobil spokesperson said, the Russian Forbes website reported in March.
"The latest draft law is being prepared in secret, without discussion with market participants," said a spokesperson for Maxim, another ride-hailing app.
"There is a chance of getting something completely different from what is needed for the industry's growth and functioning regulation," he said, according to Forbes.
Drivers, who also will have to deal with the tighter rules, have been even less restrained in their criticism.
"The new law will be a filter that will eliminate many taxi drivers who do not meet the requirements," said Tokhir Yusupov, a Dushanbe native who drives for Yandex.Taxi in Moscow. "How can they continue to live? How can they feed their families?"
The new requirements will add burdensome costs to taxi operators, who will then either cut drivers' compensation or fire them, he said.
Migrant workers from Central Asia, who make up the vast majority of taxi drivers in Russia, will be the main victims of the tougher regulation, he added.
"Every month there are new requirements, restrictions, prohibitions," said Yusupov. "[Russian] officials keep thinking up new ways to make our lives even worse."
'Violation of human rights'
The total monitoring of citizens' movements through ride-hailing apps is another indication of the degraded human rights situation in Russia, say critics of the Kremlin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned the FSB into a dominant authority that allows itself "anything, going far beyond its formal powers", Ilya Yashin, a Moscow politician, said on Facebook April 28.
"At the Lubyanka [FSB headquarters], they draft laws, train personnel for governorships and ministerial posts; stipulate what to write in the history books; decide who may vote and who may not, who will remain free, and who will go to jail," he said.
"We didn't even notice how the Russian state came under the control of intelligence agencies."
"We have given our country to unelected people, about whom little is known and who have shrouded their activities in a veil of secrecy," he added.
Authoritarian laws that trample human rights worsen the situation not only for native Russians but also for Central Asian migrants forced by circumstances to work in Russia.
Russian authorities are now adopting a slew of unconstitutional regulations, hiding behind their invasion of Ukraine, said Islam Baigarayev, a Kyrgyz lawyer and director of the Bishkek Bar Association, who often provides legal support to migrant workers in Russia.
"No matter how they justify it, no matter how they present the legalisation of measures such as tracking the movements of all citizens, including by taxi -- all this is a flagrant violation of human rights, which has become the norm in Russia in recent years," he said.