Keeping with their prior attempts to keep Westerners as far away as possible from Russians’ Internet activity, Russian secret service agents have recently advised regional government officials across Russia to use domestic webmail services and stay away from overseas ones, such as Google’s Gmail.
The recommendation, still off the record, came earlier this month from the Federal Security Service (FSB), the post-Soviet successor of the KGB, and followed the revelations made by Edward Snowden, the fugitive American government contractor who is now safe from prosecution during his one-year asylum in Russia.
According to insider information shared with the Russian political and business daily Izvestia by three independent anonymous sources with knowledge of the development, a memo was sent two weeks ago to the telecom authorities of Russia’s regions, strongly advising against the use of Gmail and other foreign services that Snowden alleges were responsible for leaking user information to US intelligence giants such as the CIA and NSA. Some local administrations – in the Rostov region in Russia’s South, for example – immediately followed the order.
Ruslan Gattarov, a Russian MP who denounced international IT companies earlier this year in what seemed to be a personal crusade for the rights of Russian Internet users, hailed the idea of making government officials say no to non-Russian webmail services.
Some representatives of the Russian Internet community also weighed in on the discussion, most of them supporting the restrictive move. For example, Dmitry Burkov, the president of Russia’s Foundation for Assistance for Internet Technologies and Infrastructure Development (FAITID), told Izvestia similar recommendations were being discussed or had already been adopted in “many countries.” He cited German practice since Deutsche Telekom has decided to make a closed loop in the national Internet traffic to minimize the use of international communications channels.