‘Tragedy Of Policy’: Snowden Calls Out Putin For Ban On Portion of Internet

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Edward Snowden criticized a decision made Sunday by Russian President Vladimir Putin to ban technology that helps users circumvent censored web content.

Millions of people within Russia can no longer lawfully utilize virtual private networks (VPNs) because of the new decree, which was already endorsed by Duma, the legislative body. VPNs empower users with the ability to navigate the web anonymously through an encrypted, secure connection.

Snowden, the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower who fled the U.S. in 2013, laid out his arguments against such a dictatorially-imposed mandate in a series of tweets — one of his primary methods of communication while taking refuge in Russia.

Snowden even referred to the law as a “tragedy of policy.”

“It’s no surprise that Putin would be aiming to block their proliferation,” Ryan Hagemann, director of technology policy at the think tank, the Niskanen Center, explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF). “While he’s probably concerned about the use of VPNs in accessing non-Kremlin-approved web content, his greater worry is their use in circumventing the FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation] and other Russian security agencies.”

“Those agencies tend to keep pretty tight tabs on state dissidents and even run-of-the-mill journalists and activists who object to his regime’s ill-treatment of the press and basic civil liberties,” he added. “Limiting access to VPNs means Putin’s opponents have fewer channels to communicate and share information that may reflect poorly on his regime.”

William Rinehart, director of technology and innovation policy at American Action Forum, agrees with Hagemann’s contentions, adding that it will also likely harm enterprises’ ability to operate and develop.

“Businesses especially have taken to VPNs because they allow for employees to gain secure access to the corporate network while outside the office,” Rinehart told TheDCNF. “While Putin’s intent might be to disrupt political opposition, the bigger consequence could be to hamper businesses’ day-to-day operations.”

VPNs are usually employed in the U.S. for the exact reason Rinehart cited. Employees not within the confines of the business’ property or network, for example, are often not allowed to gain entry because of the respective cybersecurity protocol. (RELATED: Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill To Stop Police From Snooping On People Without A Warrant)

But outside America and many other Western nations, VPNs are mostly used to access parts of the web that are blocked.

Russia isn’t the only nation state to implement such a prohibitory policy. China directed telecommunications companies earlier in July to obstruct users from accessing VPNs. Apple very recently surrendered to the country’s orders, removing all of the major VPN apps from its unique China-based store. (RELATED: China Battles For Internet Hegemony After America Gives Up Control)

Snowden thinks that because two of the biggest and most powerful countries in the world adopted the authoritarian measure, it is not only a loss for global freedom, but may geopolitically inspire others to follow suit.

Russia’s ban of VPNs is set to take effect in November. China is giving the quasi-private companies until Feb. 1, 2018 to comply with its orders.

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