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Russia: New Privacy Protection Law

(Nov. 5, 2013) On October 1, 2013, amendments to Russia’s Civil Code aimed at protecting the privacy of individuals entered into force. (Federal Law of the Russian Federation, No. 142 FZ of July 2, 2013, on Amending Section 3 of Chapter 1, Part 1, of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation [in Russian], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (July 5, 2013) [official publication].) Based on these amendments, the courts will be better able to defend the private lives of individuals against unwanted intrusions and will have the authority to order the complete deletion of information which, if released, would be too personal for the complainant and might insult, abuse, or offend that person. (Id.)

The amendments introduce a new definition of “non-monetary personal benefits” and mechanisms for their protection. The concept of non-monetary personal benefits includes, but is not limited to, the right to life, health, dignity, personal inviolability, reputation and good name, inviolability of private life and residence, personal and family secrecy, freedom of movement, and freedom to choice of residence. (Id. art. 1(10).) A Russian citizen may now petition the court not just to remove but to destroy and eliminate all information, including information disseminated through the Internet, that relates to his or her non-monetary personal benefits of life. Also, an individual may insist on the court’s imposition of a ban on further dissemination of this information. (Id. art. 1(12).)

Additionally, for the first time, Russian law prohibits dissemination of false information, even if this information is not damaging to anyone’s honor and dignity. (Id.) This could be, for example, information that someone received a large inheritance or had a winning lottery ticket. (Vladislav Kulikov, Let’s Talk About Personalities [in Russian], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (July 5, 2013).) A refutation and apology need to be published in such cases, and the false information in question must be made inaccessible to other people. A commentary on the amendments issued by the Russian State Duma states that if the source of information cannot be destroyed physically, the where the information is stored must be seized by law enforcement. (Id.)

Another important, novel aspect of the new Law aimed at strengthening protection against the dissemination of false information is the right of the targeted person to submit a claim to the court demanding removal of the false information if it appears publicly, even if it is impossible to identify the person who published or otherwise disseminated this information. Regardless of how the information was published, the court may order its removal and destruction, together with the sources where it was published. (Id.) The statute of limitations for all these claims is one year after the false or damaging information was published. (Federal Law No. 142 FZ, art. 1(12).)

Distribution of private information about public persons is not considered an intrusion in their lives if collection and distribution of the information designated as non-monetary personal benefits is done in the state, social, or other public interest. The court will decide whether the public interest was met by disclosing the information. (Id. art. 1(14).) To protect one’s privacy from another person’s intrusion, the Law provides for the issuance of restrictive orders, and it is expected that a mechanism for this provision’s implementation will be developed in the course of the Law’s application by the courts. (Vladislav Kulikov, supra.)

These amendments were highly praised by leading Russian jurists. The head of the Duma’s Legislation Committee, Pavel Krasheninnikov, believes that the new measures will help to protect personal and family secrecy from unscrupulous journalists. (Amendments on Privacy Protection Entered into Force [in Russian], NEWSRU.COM (Oct. 1, 2013).) However, many journalists are afraid that the Law will be used to suppress independent journalists’ investigations and may eventually restrict the public right of access to information, especially in disclosing facts about government officials’ corruption. (Id.)