Dear Vladimir…

I am fairly sure I don’t want Vladimir Putin as my journal censor, but I know I don’t want him to have access to any thoughts or writings of mine that are not already absolutely public.

What ‘sup?

LiveJournal announced Sunday that it is being acquired by SUP,

SUP is an international online media company with established partnerships with businesses across the globe. It was founded in the summer of 2006 by an international management team with Russian seed capital.

SUP is owned by a Russian investor, and has had a license to run the Russian-language section of LJ since October, 2006. Their LJ headquarters is in Moscow, and now they’re going to own the whole of LJ.

The acquisition came as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies won a parliamentary election which observers said was fraught with unfairness, including the Kremlin’s blatant manipulation of the media.  The opposition was shut out of public exposure, and the list of abuses gets worse from there.

LJ and SUP naturally say that they have no plans to change any of the blogging fundamentals. The have a 100-day plan for improvements to LJ service, and have sworn in one blog comment that all US data will remain in the US. But, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out:

LiveJournallers, already disturbed by acts of control by Six Apart, could well find themselves caught up in far nastier fights over the public and private content held by SUP’s servers. That’s of particular concern for Russian users, or the many Russia-speaking LJers in the former-Soviet republics that surround Russia, who do not necessarily trust the political or business culture of Moscow.

One of the posts I read in the community was from someone in Russia complaining that a while ago a Russian LJ staffer had fixed a problem by logging on to her account and taking some remedial action.  The problem was that the account username and password obviously was available to Russian staff.  With the users’ credentials, nothing would be off-limits. The easy access to private information was troubling. 

[Of course, I read about the privacy incident on the Internet, so it must be true even if I cannot find the post today in the morass of comments and angst in that community].

Still, if I wrote “friends only” posts I would think twice or three times about the SUP LJ acquisition.  I don’t think Vladimir grew up with the same sense of privacy that I did. I don’t think the controls on government are either institutionalized or followed in Russia as they are in the United States. In fact, I don’t think people allowed by the Russian government to accumulate wealth value my privacy as much as I do.

True, it is overwhelmingly unlikely that Vladimir would want to read any of my posts — private or public.  I don’t think any of his people would want to read them, either, especially since I have no ability to tell Russians who should, or how to, run their country.

But, I can see today’s young blogger posting friends-only messages about a wild party, an abortion, a tirade against capitalism.  Ten years from now this private essay writer has some position of corporate or governmental influence.  I wonder if any of this bloger’s US-written essay data will be found and used in Russia?  Could some of the friends-only pictures leak into the public domain? Could a private thread be used to “expose” the dirty secrets of people supporting abortion rights, gay marriage, or press freedom throughout the world?

As a good Massachusetts boy, I don’t tell friends about embarrassing moments in my life. Well, maybe face-to-face and when liquor is involved.  But, I have never yet done a friends-only post. I’ve never yet written personal diary entries with juicy tidbits suitable for Kitty Kelly’s research. I have not yet verbally bitch slapped someone in a restricted post, preferring instead to publish a public philippic.

But, dear Vladimir, I am certainly less likely to do any of those private postings now.  And, to be honest, I am not sure I’d recommend LJ to anyone brought up in a less up-tight Puritan home.

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3 Responses to Dear Vladimir…

  1. fuzzygruf says:

    My concern is that the Advisory Group of “informed thought leaders” is being tasked with addressing taste, decency, legal, political or religious concerns. WTF?

  2. billeyler says:

    I had wondered about the VERY large number of Russian livejournal users when I first started blogging here 2 1/2 years ago…

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