from the surveillance-made-simple dept
This actually provides some more background details on what happened with VKontakte and Durov in the past few months. In January, Durov "sold" his stake in the site to the CEO of a Russian mobile operator. Many people noted at the time that this was unlikely to have been a wholly voluntary transaction. Having known some folks working for startups/tech companies in Russia, stories of being "forced" to sell are not exactly uncommon.
"On December 13, 2013 the FSB demanded from us to turn over the personal data of organizers of the Euromaidan protesters," Pavel Durov wrote in a post (English translation) on his VKontakte page on Wednesday.
"Our response has been and remains a categorical refusal — Russian jurisdiction does not extend to Ukrainian users VKontakte," he wrote. "Giving personal details Ukrainians Russian authorities would not only be against the law, but also a betrayal of all those millions of people in Ukraine who have trusted us."
Durov himself had been outspoken for a while about the importance of secure communications, and had criticized both the NSA and the FSB for mass surveillance. He's also been working for a while on a secure messaging app (separate from VKontakte).
Then, just a few weeks ago, despite promises that when he sold his shares, nothing would change about his management role, he abruptly resigned. It was noted at the time that he had been under pressure to shut down pages related to Alexei Navalny, an opposition candidate to the current government, whose web presence was broadly censored by the Russian government last month. However, it was also hinted at that Durov had been asked to give up info on Ukrainian protestors. His latest comments appear to confirm those rumors.
Also, given that he's no longer there, and this appears to be part of the reason, it seems reasonable to believe that the FSB now does likely have access to such information via VKontakte. For whatever Putin thought he was proving with his answer to Snowden's question, it's pretty clear that Russian surveillance reaches far and wide. And, of course, the NSA's activities allow him to play it off as less intrusive than the NSA (even if that's not true). Either way, all of this seems to highlight why we all need much more secure communications systems.