By Matthew Yang.
Just one week before Thanksgiving, the Russian Federation announced that it was blocking online access to LinkedIn, a worldwide social networking site headquartered in the United States. Ostensibly this was in accordance with a law passed in 2015 that essentially requires all companies, even foreign ones, to store data pertaining to Russian citizens on Russian territory as well as notify Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Internet watchdog, of their storage locations.
This particular law was passed amidst rising tensions between Russia and the Western countries, especially the U.S., partly stemming from serious differences in their perspectives regarding the Syrian civil war and the Ukrainian crisis. In addition, some Russian officials have cited concerns over potential abuse of such data by foreign governments to justify the law’s implementation; such concerns first intensified following Edward Snowden’s May 2013 revelations of the massive extent of the NSA’s global surveillance programs, and Snowden himself remains in an unspecified location within Russia, claiming asylum status.
While some American companies, including Apple, have opted to comply with Russian demands, others, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, have reportedly still refused to do so. This recent development is particularly notable, however, in that LinkedIn is the first major American website to be officially blocked in Russia in this manner, and that this ban will inevitably impact the many registered LinkedIn users in Russia, which number at around 6 million to date.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, has stated last week that there were no concerns over censorship issues being raised as a result of LinkedIn’s ban, and the Kremlin has further commented that Roskomnadzor’s action was legal. LinkedIn’s management has asked Russian authorities for a meeting to discuss the move and its repercussions, and Microsoft, which purchased LinkedIn earlier this year, has also recently implied that it has been able to reach a satisfactory agreement with Russia relating to the data storage law, possibly involving it moving LinkedIn servers containing Russian citizens’ data to Russia as long demanded.