Russia has blocked access to business networking site, LinkedIn after a court ruled that the US-based company had broken a 2014 federal law. The case was instituted by Roskomnadzor, Kremlin’s media watchdog.
The local Russian law which came into force in the country in September of that year required that internet companies that access personal data of Russian citizens must also domicile the information on servers in Russia.
The law also states foreign companies operating in Russia will be barred from sending personal data of Russian citizens out of the country without first complying with data storage requirements of the law.
The ban marks the first time a social median site will be blocked in Russia, as LinkedIn users in the country began to lose access to the site on Friday, December 2. Russia has previously threatened to block social media networks like Facebook, but has failed to follow up on its promises.
The ban on LinkedIn in Russia came as a shock to the US embassy in Moscow which stated that it was deeply concerned about the move. The embassy then called on Russia to rescind the decision and restore access to LinkedIn.
Observers believe the ban by Russia could set a precedence that will justify the blocking of other major social network sites in the country.
The two most popular social network sites, Facebook and Twitter, as well as Facebook’s WhatsApp, like LinkedIn, do not keep the personal data of Russian users in servers domiciled in the country. But observers believe the LinkedIn treatment has been used as a warning to pile the pressure on these digital media companies, which are more widely used than LinkedIn, to comply with the rules.
There are 400 million registered users on LinkedIn worldwide, but only 5 million of them are based in Russia. Citing an large scale hack into the data of the site in 2012 which compromised about 6 .4 million usernames and passwords, Russian authorities claim LinkedIn is unsecure.
A spokesman for Roskomnadzor which filed the case before the court, Vadim Ampelonsky told the Moscow Times that LinkedIn has a poor track record and that every year it recorded one major scandal or the other on the safety of its user data.
“Cyber security is a growing concern among websites and genuine web users, as a new wave and more sophisticated forms of cyber crimes takes a grip on internet activities. The most vulnerable have been private companies, some of which have lost huge sums to cyber-ransoming — where company data are hacked and money is demanded for a swap.” – Hosting and Domain Specialists – Domains 4 Less
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Meanwhile, LinkedIn released a statement last Friday, December 2, informing its registered users in Russia it would refund any unused time for nay paid service. The company also stated that Russian users who decide to still leave their accounts open will still be able to access them whenever they’re outside the country.
After Microsoft recently agreed to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the business networking site cannot unilaterally take a decision on whether to comply with the Russian data storage law and restore access to its Russian users or not.
The move is coming against the backdrop of increased hope that the incoming Mr. Donald Trump’s presidency will improve US-Russia relationship.