From the beginning of the Russian invasion, colossal volumes of information about the Russian state and its activities were unveiled. Data highlights the work of closed institutions and becomes golden mine for researchers, from journalists to those who investigate military crimes.
In general, the information has two sources: its publication by Ukrainian authorities together with allies, or hactivists. Thus, hundreds of gigabytes of files and millions of messages have already been published. For example, they published names, birth dates, passport data and military positions of those that have committed atrocities in Bucha, and also leaked names and contact details of 620 Russian spies registered in the Moscow FSB Directorate.
Both lists were published by the Main Department of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, at the end of March and early April respectively. It seems that this is one of the first cases in history when the government simultaneously revealed the data of thousands of military. According to Jack McDonald, researcher of confidentiality during the war, usually nations had lists of their enemies or tried to create them. However, this was often due to the fight against the rebels and lists were not disclosed. Open publication of the list of opponents in volumes that allow digital operations is a new practice.
Doxxing – or disclosure of personal information – is usually unethical. However, this may be justified during the war, especially if data are associated with military crimes or military facilities. Violation of confidentiality weighs less than risks to suffer from combat actions.
Jack McDonald adds that lists should be checked and false information should be removed to avoid extra harm. Demonstrating the complexity of the question, Google has blocked access to a PDF file with Russian soldiers in Bucha, since it violated the publication of personal data. The company refused to comment on this decision in.
However, after the war the lists – if the information in them is correct – can become a starting point for investigating military crimes. For example, the name can be linked to a photo that links to the account in social networks or images from the scene. Each crumb of information works as a piece of puzzle that researchers collect. They are trying to store and archive thousands of TikToks, Telegram messages and posts on social networks so that they could be used as proof. Although it is unlikely that Russia will extradict those guilty of crimes for a court.
Not only the Ukrainian intelligence distributed information about the war. Volunteer IT army, which was mobilized at the beginning of the war, and specialists from other countries, and also US intelligence and Britain regularly attempted to interfere with Putin’s place, disclosing potential operations under a false flag and publishing statistics of Russian military losses. Hacker Group Anonymous announced started a cyberwar against the Russian government and undertook responsibility for attacks that led to the publication of huge amounts of data related to Russia and state figures.
Activists of Transparency in Distributed Denial of Secrets group or DDoSecrets, published more than 700 gigabytes of data from the Russian government and more than 3 million Russian emails and documents. Including information from Roscomnadzor, GTRK state broadcaster, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education of Russia.
Published data becomes indispensable source of information for researchers who seek to understand how the Russian state works, including their approach to censorship and media control. As the co-founder of DDoSecrets Emma Best said: “We have never seen so much data from Russia.”