LinkedIn was officially blocked in Russia this Thursday, as they were found to be in violation of a Russian data storage law. The law, passed in 2014 and enacted in September 2015, requires that websites store data for their Russian users on local servers within the country. It also includes data retention provisions for a period of 6 months. The law not only applies to Russian companies, but also applies to Internet companies and other global service providers. LinkedIn submitted an appeal to the ruling to a higher court, which was officially rejected. LinkedIn is a social networking platform used by professionals.
As a result of the block users in Russia can no longer access LinkedIn, a move that affects over 6 million members. Russian ISPs were ordered to enforce the block within a 24 hour time period, and can face fines for non-compliance. It’s not known why LinkedIn was targeted, but TechCrunch speculates it was to set an example for other providers and encourage them to comply.
It’s likely this case may set a precedent for how Russia handles similar situations going forward. Reportedly, Apple & Google have started to comply with the law and moved their data to local servers, but it’s unclear whether Facebook and Twitter will. Although Russia says the law’s purpose is to protect data from cyberattacks, many others believe it’s a censorship effort to increase the control the country already has over the Internet. LinkedIn is pushing back, requesting a meeting with regulators to discuss the situation.
Update – November 29, 2016: The United States government has expressed concern over Russia’s decision to blocked LinkedIn, as they are worried it might set a precedent for censoring other websites in Russia: “This decision is the first of its kind and sets a troubling precedent that could be used to justify shutting down any website that contains Russian user data.”
The US also asserted that the block harms competition, and has a negative effect for people in Russia.
Update – November 28, 2017: Russia announced today that in 2018 it will check to see if Twitter is adhering to the data storage law. Twitter previously stated they’d localize their data to comply with Russian law by mid-2018. If the situation with LinkedIn serves as an example, it’s possible the social network site could be banned from the country if found to be noncompliant.