Russias internet regulator today confirmed that access to social networking site LinkedIn which has been blocked in Russia since November 2016 is not returning to Russia anytime soon, after it received a letter from the social networks VP of global public policy statingthat LinkedInwill not move Russian user data to Russian territory. LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoftand has 6 million users in the country, told TechCrunch that it is still workingon lifting the ban.
The bigger narrative herehas been how Russia has enforcedits rules to control how internet sites work in the country. In the case of data storage, Russia has argued that storing data within national borders is done in the name of protecting Russian internet users. Skeptics believe it simply creates an easier road for Russia toaccess that data itself.
A short statement( in Russian) on regulator Roskomnadzors website notes that Pablo Chavez, LinkedIns counsel, saidLinkedInis not ready toclear its violations of Russian law, which requiresinternet companies to store Russian citizens data on Russian servers.
The statement ends with a amazingly broad conclusion to emphasize the point( italics ours ): The company has refused to fulfill the requirement of localization of databases with personal data of Russian citizens on the territory of the Russian Federation, thus confirming itslack of interest in the Russian market .
For a little extradramatic( and pretty Russian) effect, the regulatoralso tweeted this 😛 TAGEND
Contacted for a response, LinkedIn, unsurprisingly, said it is still trying to negotiate with the Russian authorities, after the regulator not only blocked access to its website but in January proceeded to order app stores to remove LinkedIns apps.
LinkedIns vision is to create economic opportunity for the global workforce. We are disappointed with Roskomnadzors action to block LinkedIn as it denies access to our services for our members and customers in Russia, said a spokesperson.
While we believe we comply with all applicable laws, and despite a discussion with Roskomnadzor, including meeting with them in Moscow in December 2016, we have been unable to reach an understanding that would assure them lift the block on LinkedIn in the Russian Federation. LinkedIn will continue to be available in the Russian speech, and we hope that we are able to restore service in Russia in the future.
LinkedIn currently counts 465 million users globally, so Russia representsa relatively small proportion of the companys audience merely 1.3 percentage. However, its not a stagnant market: That number grew by 1 million since November.
( As is often the example with these blocks, if you are in the country and use a VPN service that basically induces you look like youre online in another country, you can continue to use LinkedIn and anything else that is or might get blocked. This might be one reason why the numbers continue to grow .)
A story parallel to the data storage themehas been how Russia controlswhat content it allows to appear on publicly accessible sites and apps, and blocking sites and apps that transgress its content rules.
This, too, is done in the name of protecting users, although a more skeptical position could be that it shows that Russia is maintaining a close watch on what is being published on the web, and its not afraid to letlarge internet companies know that its prepared to act if something crosses the line.
In both the case of data storage and censorship, the implications are chilling when you consider the ongoing investigations and allegations about what role Russia may have played in hacking in the U.S. and spinning stories to influencing major eventslike the U.S. election a theme that recurred even today with the WikiLeaks dump of a data trove allegedly leaked from the CIA.
With data storage, it has been an inconsistent narrative so far both for Russia and LinkedIn.
The social network is not totally opposed to complying with national regulations when it comes to rules like this. When LinkedIn launched in China, it did so by building basically a completely separate site, with data hosted within the country, in order to gratify similar regulatory requirements.
And in the case of data storage in Russia, as weve noted before, there seem to bea number of international sites accessible in Russia right now that do not host data within the country.
Facebook and Twitter, both accessiblein Russia, are among those that today appear still to keep their data housed out of Russia.Apple and Google reportedly have complied. Asked by TechCrunch earlier today, Microsoft declined to comment on whether it has any data centers in the country.( One note some time ago implied that Azure does not have a Russia region, and this mapindicates that it still does not. Microsoft offers these guidelines for how business in Russia should handle alternatives to comply with the local laws .)
As weve said before, its not clear why LinkedIn was targeted here, but the fact that its now owned by Microsoft does create the stakesfor both sides. Twoquestions are whether Microsoft will wade in to assistance LinkedIn, or, conversely, if Russia would consider trying to extendits influence and controlto the services run by LinkedIns much larger parent, too.