A new law passed by Russian parliament today requires that internet companies store the personal data of Russian users inside the country’s borders, a move that could make it easier for government officials to keep tabs on citizens. Members of parliament have defended the bill as a measure to protect internet users in the country whose details are often kept in the United States or elsewhere, and a never-ending cascade of revelations over US spying and Russia’s own protection of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have likely made the bill easier to pass. The new law requires that companies doing business in Russia open data centers inside the country by 2016 or face being blocked; a number of high-profile companies including Twitter have no local presence, and it’s unclear whether Russia’s move will spur any action.
The Russian government is attempting to implement a new set of rules that could change the face of the Internet for businesses (and individuals) that operate within its confines. A new bill passed through parliament yesterday and states that any data stored online about Russians must be done so inside the country. But it goes further, stating that such data cannot be transmitted outside of Russia without guarantees are first given and accepted about its storage. The new rules, if accepted into law, would take effect in September 2016 and have a huge impact on any online service that Russians use. Every large tech company you can think (Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc) will either have to withdraw services from the country or install new infrastructure to support local storage. That means servers on Russian soil to store Russian data. It would also mean that data cannot be beamed back to the US or Europe without prior consent from the Russian government. Itâ€™s not just big companies this impacts, though. If a small developer releases an app that stores data on a server, it would stop working inside Russia unless they just so happened to be storing the data in the country already. The reasons for the Russian government pursuing such a bill are unclear, but a mix of ensuring national security, combating piracy, and to some extent controlling information flow and free speech has been suggested. It could see Russia treated more like Chinaby the tech giants, choosing to work with Russian companies to provide services inside the country rather than attempting to go it alone. But even so, restrictions on data movement make operating social networks and search engines quite difficult.