Russia is using the situation with Edward Snowden to push for the United Nations to take control of the Internet. This is by no means the first effort to have control over the Internet wrested from the United States and placed in the hands of the U.N.; as early as 2005 it was proposed that the UN should take the reins of the Internet, an effort which the U.S. successfully thwarted at the time.
Now Russia is raising the issue again, ostensibly to force ‘global’ – but U.S.-based – companies, such as Google and Microsoft, to have to comply with the privacy rules and laws of countries other than the U.S.. The argument essentially goes that other countries have tighter requirements for the protection and privacy of individuals and their data.
Said Ruslan Gattarov, of the Russian Parliament, “We need to quickly put these huge transnational companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook under national controls. This is the lesson Snowden taught us.”
Ironically, but not surprisingly, the past several years has actually seen Russia trying to require these same companies to turn over user data to the Russian government. However, in bringing the “the U.N. should control the Internet” initiative to the fore again, their argument is that Snowden’s revelations of the N.S.A. accessing user data shows a disregard for user privacy that can only be remedied by transferring oversight of the Internet to an international body.
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Another Russian Parliament member has suggested that companies such as Google, and social networking companies, should be required to maintain servers inside of Russia, and that the data of Russian users should be required to be maintained on those Russian-based servers (making themm subject to Russian law and search warrant requirements).
Observed a Facebook spokesperson, “We think it would be better for people if the result of all of this debate is greater transparency and accountability for governments seeking private data, rather than more government secrecy and access to this personal information.”
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