'Russian Facebook' CEO Durov disses Zuckerberg, but loves Edward Snowden

The Russian social media exec speaks out on Facebook and privacy

VK CEO Pavel Durov sits down with TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis at GMIC in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 2013.

VK CEO Pavel Durov sits down with TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis at GMIC in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 2013.

Pavel Durov, the CEO of the Russian social networking site VK, does not think very highly of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Edward Snowden instead is his personal hero.

"Mark underestimates VK," Durov said Tuesday, addressing dismissive remarks Zuckerberg previously made about VK. "He doesn't use it very much," Durov said.

"VK is faster, easier to use, and has more functionality," he said.

VK is a giant site in Russia -- offering many features similar to Facebook -- and is regarded as the second-largest social network in Europe after Facebook. Durov made his comments at the GMIC mobile Internet conference in San Francisco, an event that drew multiple thousands of attendees from across the world.

The Russian social networking site gained some attention this past summer for offering a job to Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor responsible for numerous leaks concerning government surveillance programs such as Prism. Russia has given asylum to Snowden, who is evading capture by U.S. authorities.

At GMIC, Durov spoke out on the issue of privacy, and why it's important that more companies, like Facebook, think harder about strategies like encryption and keeping their users' data safe.

In this area, VK has been developing its Telegram messaging service, which it claims is more secure than rival WhatsApp's messaging, partly because it offers end-to-end encryption and also self-destructing messages.

During a discussion with TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsisv, Durov called Snowden a personal hero for helping to bring more attention to privacy.

"He's had to sacrifice a big part of his life to let us know that we're being spied on," Durov said.

Some conservative or patriotic Americans may see Snowden as a traitor, Durov said. But Durov pointed out that he knows what it feels like to be spied on.

Durov was at the center of an alleged hit and run incident earlier this year and is no stranger to government investigations. "I'm not happy that my rights were violated without me knowing it," he said Tuesday.

When asked about whether Zuckerberg should incorporate more encryption into Facebook, Durov said that would be great, "but he might have other priorities."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

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