The Sochi Winter Games are already the most expensive Olympics on record, and they're shaping up to be the most watched, as well — not by spectators or television viewers, but by the Russian government.
Amid heightened security concerns and terrorist threats, Russian security forces have constructed a powerful surveillance system designed to monitor the movements and communications of virtually everyone on the ground at Sochi. The aim is to deter attacks and unrest through blanket monitoring, though there are fears that the Kremlin is going too far.
"The Russian secret services are just obsessed by the idea of ... total control," says Irina Borogan, an investigative journalist for Moscow-based watchdog Agentura.ru. Last year, Borogan and Agentura editor-in-chief Andrei Soldatov published a series of reports on the surveillance programs that Russia is implementing for the Winter Olympics, which run from February 7th through the 23rd.
Their investigation shed light on a security system of remarkable breadth — one capable of gathering not only metadata, but actual phone conversations and internet activity. In an interview with The Guardian, one security expert described the program as "PRISM on steroids," referring to the controversial data-gathering system used by the US National Security Agency (NSA).