Data Subjects vs. People’s Data: Competing Discourses of Privacy and Power in Modern Russia

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Data Subjects vs. People’s Data: Competing Discourses of Privacy and Power in Modern Russia

  • Tetyana Lokot School of Communications, Dublin City University, Ireland

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Abstract:  The notion of individual privacy has always been a political one throughout Russia’s Soviet and post-Soviet periods, but in the age of all-encompassing datafication and digitisation of identities, privacy has become an even more contested concept. This article considers how Russian state officials and Russian digital rights advocates construct the notion of privacy in their public online discourses. I argue that how these actors talk about privacy helps shape the norms and the politics around it in Russia. An in-depth analysis of activity reports published online by the state internet regulator and a grassroots digital rights group reveals competing privacy discourses underpinned by differential understandings of how anonymity, secrecy, confidentiality, and control of personal data determine the distribution of power and agency in Russian public and political life. These differential interpretations of privacy inform the contentious politics that emerge around how privacy is regulated and negotiated within the greater regulatory and normative framework of digital citizenship in Russia. Thus, the article offers critical insights into the contestation of citizenship and, consequently, the distribution of power in more and less democratic systems.

Keywords:  data; digital rights; power; privacy; Russia



© Tetyana Lokot. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.