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The Sochi Olympics Are Turning Into the Security Olympics

Russian authorities have far-reaching plans to spy on guests

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The Olympics attract protestors, riots, and terrorist threats, some of which have been carried out. These concerns of global terrorism have prompted increased security: “In Atlanta, for example, Olympic organizers spent $98 million for security. In Salt Lake City, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks, security costs topped $300 million. By 2004, Athens spent more than $1 billion,” says USA TODAY. For the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver, Canada, roughly $1 billion was spent ramping up security with army, police and private security forces.

But for the upcoming Sochi Olympics, Russian authorities are planning on training more cameras and collecting more data on guests than any other Olympic host has before.

“[S]ecurity experts are warning athletes, journalists, spectators and government officials that the coming Olympics will see the most invasive security measures the Games have ever seen,” says the CBC. “The warnings are based partly on the work of two Russian investigative journalists who uncovered the plan to significantly soup up existing surveillance technology in Sochi in time for the arrival of thousands of foreigners.”

Russia's security plans go far beyond putting a lot of boots on the ground. Security researchers, says the CBC, found that “a Russian company promising ultra-fast, free WiFi in Sochi is also installing DPI or Deep Packet Inspection technology.”

DPI has legitimate uses, but in this case it is apparently aimed at allowing authorities to filter email for key words and track who's talking to whom, as well as what they're saying.

In short, Soldatov explained to CBC News, every phone call, every email, every social media message in Sochi will be accessible, traceable by Russia's Federal Security Service — the FSB — the organization in charge of securing the Olympics.

Thousands of cameras have been installed around Sochi, and drones will be flying overhead.

Sochi is sealed tight, its streets a gauntlet of checkpoints under the vigilant watch of at least 70,000 police and soldiers. As well, an entire brigade of elite special forces are deployed in the mountains nearby.

On top of that, Russia's Olympic arsenal will include anti-ballistic missiles, an underwater sonar system, even underwater machine guns.

The Sochi winter games are set at a site much closer to violence and terrorism than the Vancouver or Turin, Italy games that came before, says USA Today. But even that, suggests the CBC, doesn't explain all the extra security:

[I]f fighting terrorism was the chief motivation, then the approach is suspect, argues Soldatov. Some of the planned measures are "completely useless to prevent terrorist attacks," he says.

"You can't use drones to prevent suicide bombers … But they're very good things to prevent [protests] because it might spot people trying to gather."

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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