If you’re still maintaining a LiveJournal, your journal’s now in Russia

Signal-boosting this news as I know a few people still maintaining a LiveJournal who might choose to delete it, or change their use of LiveJournal after learning about this.

LiveJournal is now hosted in Russia

As of late December 2016, the LiveJournal servers (computers) are now hosted in Russia. While LiveJournal has been owned by Russian company SUP since 2007, the servers had until now been hosted in the US and access to them somewhat controlled by Californian law.

SUP has, to the best of my knowledge, not announced or commented on this themselves, but there’s more information at rahirah’s Dreamwidth journal with links to different evidence of the new location of the servers.

A Russian-language LiveJournaller appears to report that Russian law then allows that all the confidential information of [LiveJournal] users is available for [Russian] domestic security services in real time [note though that that’s a automated translation].

A BBC report on Russian law regarding social media in 2014 seems to confirm this:

A new law imposing restrictions on users of social media has come into effect in Russia.

It means bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern the country’s larger media outlets.

Internet companies will also be required to allow Russian authorities access to users’ information.

Thanks to my original source of information about this (found via @anatsuno on Twitter).

siderea expresses several important concerns with this:

  1. if you’re in Russia or vulnerable to Russia, and a political opponent, you could now be more easily identified by Russian security
  2. regardless of where you are, your LiveJournal could be possibly be deleted without notice for expressing opposition to Russia or its interests or for other content censored in Russia (eg LGBT-related content)
  3. the flight of LiveJournal users from LiveJournal following this news could simply kill the business and cause everyone’s journals to disappear without notice (Archive Team is storing public entries, regarding it as an at-risk site)

Readers’ connections to LiveJournal aren’t private

LiveJournal redirects secure https links back to insecure http. For example, if you visit https://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ your browser will connect, but it will be instructed to head to http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ before loading the page. (Info from this Dreamwidth comment by mme_hardy, confirming my personal experiences with LiveJournal RSS feeds over the last several months.)

What this means is that the content of any entries you read, including locked ones by both you and other people, are trivially visible to anyone who can eavesdrop on your net connection, including (often) other people on your local network, and anyone on the path between you and LiveJournal such as your ISP and anyone with access to the data flowing across international cables or access to the data as it enters the Russian hosting facility, whereas https connections are encrypted in a way such that those people can see that data is flowing but can’t read it absent considerably more niche and intensive technical measures. (Even if HTTPS were turned on by LiveJournal, you wouldn’t be safe from the Russian law, since they can ask LiveJournal itself to turn over your data in addition to whatever nation-state attacker level techniques they can employ.)

Given my experience with LiveJournal RSS feeds, I’m fairly sure this has been true for some time, predating the move of the servers to Russia. (Here’s one other report that this was already true as of September 2016.) Regardless of timing, this speaks of, at best, disregard for the privacy of their users’ explicitly private (because friends-locked!) information. It’s 2017, mandatory HTTPS for transmission of any data that is sensitive or might, conceivably, somehow, maybe, be sensitive is an absolute minimum standard for user safety. LiveJournal doesn’t even have optional “if you have HTTPS Everywhere installed” or “if you remember to stick the s into the URL yourself” HTTPS (which would still be insufficient as you cannot control whether your readers use HTTPS when reading your journal).

Getting your content out of LiveJournal

If based on this you choose to delete your LiveJournal, here are some options to keep your entries. This list isn’t comprehensive.

If you want to move the content to another website, here’s some blogging platforms that provide imports from LiveJournal:

If you want to download your entries for private use, you can:

  • use LiveJournal’s own export tool but rather painfully (you’ll have to do one download per month), and without comments
  • use ljdump on the command line, which worked for me as of 2015 when I deleted my LiveJournal, but will require that you’re an experienced command line user
  • use BlogBooker to export it to a Word or PDF file (disclosure: I haven’t used this site in quite some time, and would appreciate hearing if it works, but I suggest people at least try it because it exports to a non-programmer friendly format that people could keep as a private archive, and claims to include comments and images)
  • Archive Team lists other backup tools

If your LiveJournal made use of their photo hosting, I am not sure which backup solutions will import your photos or how they will be stored. I am also not aware of any import tool that replaces LiveJournal entries with a “this entry has moved to URL” message or similar. If anyone is working on a competing LiveJournal import/export tool, photo export and redirection text are both features that my friends and I would have found useful at various times.

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If you’re still maintaining a LiveJournal, your journal’s now in Russia by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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