Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Russia Blocks LinkedIn: A Sign of Things to Come?

It's official. After months of threatening LinkedIn with a block of its services in Russia, the Russian communications regulator has followed through. It all stems from a dispute over whether LinkedIn would comply with Russian laws requiring information pertaining to Russian users be hosted on Russian servers. One wonders if Russia's actions are a sign of things to come.

The push to bring all Russian user data home began in 2014 when the Duma passed the first of several bills aimed at doing just that. Under that first piece of 2014 legislation, Russia established that companies operating on an international scale would have to procure physical servers in Russia – whether contracting with existing data centres or building their own – in order to store data pertaining to Russian users.

The law equally applies to big names such as Facebook and Google and smaller companies with significantly less name recognition. Furthermore, it applies to Russian companies who have a practice of sending user data outside the country. They must cease doing so unless they can prove a certain level of domestic data security.

A Populist Mentality or Something Else?

One way to look at the Russian legislation is to compare it to the current wave of populism that seems to be sweeping the globe. Citizens growing ever more tired of globalism are demanding their nations return to a more populist way of doing things that preserve national identity and sovereignty. Populism was a big part of both Brexit and the recent US presidential election. It may grow in the near future with both the French and German elections.

Could Russia's move be as much about populism as security?  While it's true that protecting sensitive data is a lot easier when hosted domestically, it is also not terribly difficult to implement security strategies that are effective in a cross-border situation. So there has to be more to it than just security alone. Populism seems as if it could be a factor.

Still, there is another possibility. Some critics of Russia's move speculate that the regulator wants data stored at home so that certain government agencies can access it more easily. Think NSA and Edward Snowden here.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Now that Russia has taken steps to block LinkedIn, we would expect the regulator to take similar action against other companies as well. The floodgates are opened and water should begin pouring through rather quickly. Whether it spreads to other countries remains to be seen.

As per LinkedIn, they continue to stay committed to a global mindset. In their official statement, they expressed the following:

"Roskomnadzor's action to block LinkedIn denies access to the millions of members we have in Russia and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their businesses. We remain interested in a meeting with Roskomnadzor to discuss their data localisation request."

Will Russia flinch? Probably not. So now it's up to LinkedIn to make it work.

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