Intimate Matter

A commercial court in Moscow has ruled that MegaFon, the second largest mobile phone operator in Russia, violated the law when thousands of SMS-messages leaked to the Internet. For 3,000 personal messages made public the company will pay a fine of 30,000 roubles ($1,000) or 33 cents per message.

The penalty may seem ludicrous, yet the decision opens the gate to a barrage of civil lawsuits against the company. As Russian law stands, facts established by a court cannot be reconsidered. So the only matter left for debate is the amount of compensation.

The leak was discovered on July 18th. Internet users could read SMS-messages: thousands of intimate whispers plus passwords to accounts in social networks were open to all. It was a scandal. Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor, the Investigative Committee and the Federal Security Service launched investigations. MegaFon accused Yandex, the largest search engine in Russia of the leak. The latter claimed that when their spiders visited the MegaFon’s site the file, robot.txt, limiting the data indexing was not there.

The company’s spokeswomen said to this magazine that ‘regardless of the court’s decision the main issue for us is to protect the affected customers and to compensate them out of court’.

With over 30 million subscribers MegaFon, previously known as North-West GSM, generates more than $6 billion in revenues.