When our professor said, that 2014 would be a year of Snowden, I was really surprised. Even for me, a representer of russian IT community, maybe the most independent and democratic social group of the country, this topic was somewhere outside of the top 10 actual problems. Truly speaking, that was not a problem at all. So, why the case of Edward Snowden didn’t cause any enthusiasm in Russia? I`ll try to answer this question in this essay.
To answer let’s understand, what did the ex-employee of NSA showed to the world (namely, to its western countries)?
For western people the most shocking thing was the loss of privacy. They thought that their messages, location and files can be read only by technical stuff of Facebook, Google etc. This almost meant, that nobody reads them, because even support questions the staff answer after a long time. Additionally, this companies had privacy terms which more or less had to protect users. And the fact that all personal information can be easily gained by american secret services (moreover, by other secret services) causes near physical pain if you was grown up in a free democratic country and have the right for your private life. Free from governments and authorities. We are not celebrities, we don’t want to be public. But now we have no private life. At least its online part. No privacy.
The other painful aftermath is general untrust to the USA. This cause not only economical effect in form that nobody wants to rely on american security solutions and american companies suffer losses (e.g. analysts estimate losses $22 to $35 billion for cloud computing industry). Untrust weaked the positions of the USA as a world guarantor of security in the world, the role they played after the Second world war and European countries agreed with this. The latest evidence of this untrust we can see during the ukranian crisis. It allowed Moscow’s diplomacy to drive a wedge in the historical coalition of the western countries and make political speculations led to the Crimea annex.
Was Snowden responsible for this? Definitely, no. He was just a doctor who claimed the diagnosis. And now many free western people hardly think, how to return their right of privacy back. Maybe, privacy would be in some other form. Or maybe, the governments must be also more opened. But informational balance between society and governments must be returned to equilibrium.
That is how the “snowden effect” on western society is seen from Russia. And what about Russia?
On the following chart we can see how interesting was Edward Snowden in the country which gave him temporary asylum. It was ten times less than other countries who wanted to give asylum.
Google trends for topic “Snowden”. Index of Russia - 7
As we see, in Russia there were no “Snowden effect”. The are two reasons of this, or maybe two sides of one reason: culture and tradition.
In Soviet Union many citizens even have no passports and thus, have no freedom of moving. We had only official media, official literature and official films. People were taught that such life is normal. Even better. We are the best country, we won the Great war and we were the first in space and our sportsmen are the best.
Now we live in a post-USSR country, but we were grown up by soviet parents, we watched soviet films. Nobody taught us, that we have our private life and other rights. In USSR the KGB can control all aspects of citizens life, including private. It was done under the souse of protection, supported by propaganda and was percepted as normal by the majority of citizens. Those who struggle were so few that it didn’t lead to organized actions and campaigns.
Although, many young people visited western countries our culture still have much from Soviet union. So, the fact is that people in Russia don’t realise that they have a right for private life. And that is why Edward Snowden didn’t show us that we lost it. How we can lost something that we don’t have? Maybe it would sounds a little paradoxical but this story made in Russia positive effect, because many people understand that the right for private life can exist.
Summarizing, the main reason why the were so few effect from Edward Snowden in Russia are cultural differences. According to them people in Russia just don’t feel many rights that people in western democratic countries feel. And the right for private life is one of them.
PS. According to the legislation initiatives of the FSS (Federal Security Service), internet companies in Russia will be obliged almost any private information of user by request of the FSS. The company can avoid this by giving access for capturing this data to the FSS. That is also a kind of Snowden effect.