Russia Bans LinkedIn, More Sites Likely to Follow

Russian federal executive body overseeing information technologies and mass communications, Roskomnadzor, has just begun enforcing the nation’s ban of the popular professional networking site, LinkedIn. The nation wide block comes after the November 10th Moscow City Court upholding of the decision, which initially passed through a district court in August of this year.

It all began when the country requested that LinkedIn, operating out of California, transfer all of its Russian user data to servers located within Russia. The order came from the August district court ruling, and cited a Russian bill passed back in 2014 (which took effect in September of this year) that calls for personal data belonging to citizens to be stored on Russian servers.

According to TechCrunch, LinkedIn has been attempting to meet with Russian officials regarding the need for Russian user data to be stored locally, but as of now it appears as though no such meetings - or arrangements for them - have been made.

The ban comes as LinkedIn is in the process of being acquired by US tech giant Microsoft - a deal which is expected to close by the end of this year.

When asked to explain the decision behind the ruling, Russia cites prioritizing privacy for its citizens, and keeping their data close to home. Russian users comprise a small number of LinkedIn account holders, causing many to speculate that this particular ban was devised to set a precedent for larger companies providing online services to Russia. At the moment, Russian citizens login to many other international sites daily. It is yet to be seen how Russia plans to proceed in enforcing this law in regards to more popular services provided by companies much larger than what is currently LinkedIn. Needless to say, it isn’t surprising that the ban aimed at LinkedIn came two months after the company announced their pending merge with Microsoft.

Critics of Russia’s ruling theorize that Roskomnadzor is simply seeking a more direct route to its citizens’ personal data.

That route, however, comes with a cost - requiring Russia to greatly expand upon their own servers; Currently, the country has 2,196 public DNS servers total. Comparatively, the US is home to more than twice that amount.

The ruling has international ramifications beyond a loss of site usership for overseas companies - it also prevents Russian user data from being sent outside of the country on behalf of non Russian websites and companies. This clause positions the law as not only a security or censorship measure, but also as one that can potentially isolate its citizens by preventing online correspondences with non Russian web users.

This makes it crucial for people living in Russia to know how to maintain their internet freedoms, especially as their country systematically strips them away. Browsing through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will allow you to access sites by way of overseas servers, enabling Russian users and anyone visiting Russia to connect to sites blocked by the country. VPNs also encrypt your data, ensuring that your online travels are shielded.

LinkedIn is not the first - and by the looks of it, will not be the last - overseas web service to be blocked by Russia in accordance with the upholding of this ruling.

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