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In the early morning of November 17th, 2016, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Media (the regulator) announced that it had blacklisted LinkedIn, following the company’s alleged violation of the original Law of Personal Data.
The regulator placed LinkedIn on the non-compliance registry and notified the internet providers to block the most popular professional network. It is expected that the network’s website will cease to be accessible by the end of the day.
The Court Ruling
In early August, the regulator filed a successful complaint alleging LinkedIn’s violation of local laws regarding the storage of personal data. On November 10th, the Moscow City Court stated that the professional network collects users’ data, violating their right to privacy, as well as personal and family secrecy. First, the IT watchdog requested that the company change its terms, to prevent the transfer of Russian users’ personal data to third parties. Secondly, the court agreed with the regulator that the company must move the data of millions of Russian users onto Russian servers, which LinkedIn failed to do.
The defence failed to convince the court that the Russian law should not extend to foreign companies which do not operate on Russian territory. Also, the company’s lawyers maintained that no evidence was presented showing that LinkedIn processes Russian users’ personal data. Nonetheless, only if the company decides to move the data will the regulator unblock the network’s website. In contrast, the Russian Internet Ombudsman called the ban “the most unseasonable thing”.
Who Does This Benefit?
It is clear that blacklisting the world’s largest professional network will not benefit the majority of citizens who the regulator allegedly is trying to protect, journalist Oleg Salmanov of business daily Vedomosti notes. Moreover, most of them would actually prefer their data not be stored in Russia, especially considering the current authoritative regime. In any event, the user may choose not to agree to the social network’s terms and conditions if they do not like them. However, currently, there is no option to refuse the regulator’s “protection”.
LinkedIn has 400 million registered accounts in 200 countries. Although it has five million users in Russia, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Olga Golodets, stated that the ban “will not affect” the employment market.
What Others Are Doing
LinkedIn is the first company to suffer from the amendments made to the Russian Federal Law On Personal Data, effective from September 1st, 2016. The law reads that any Russian or foreign company working with Russian users must ensure recording, systematisation and storage of personal data of such users on a server in Russia.
A number of companies, including Apple, Google, Uber, Booking, PayPal and eBay have transferred or are currently transferring the data of Russian users onto local servers. However, Facebook and Twitter are still non-compliant with the law, and it remains to be seen whether the regulator will take action.