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Google Relocates Russian Engineers Following New Data Privacy Law

The Russia State Duma passed a bill last year that means all the personal data of their citizens needs to be kept on servers within their country.

The bill, which was approved by 325 voters against 65, means that international companies who wish to operate within Russia will require a physical server presence within the border. On top of this, non-Russian companies wouldn’t be able to send any data outside of the country without first providing guarantees on how the data would then be stored.

Even those countries that operate only in Russia will be affected, providing that they store their data elsewhere. They, along with international operations, will incur expenses in order to build facilities inside Russia to support the new law.

This isn’t the only bill that Russia have passed in order to control internet activity. Blogs that get more than 3000 daily visits have to register with a communications watchdog and a regulation that allows the websites to be closed without needing a court order.

At the time of the bill, there was no comment from the majority of companies. “We do not have any comment that we can share at this point,” a Google spokesperson said at the time. Now, however, Google have made a move.

Google has confirmed to the BBC that it will be moving its engineers out of Russia. Although the tech giant said they remain committed to users in Russia, they refused to say how many staff would be impacted by the move.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google will retain some staff, including sales, marketing and support, within their Russian offices.

“We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers and we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them,” said Google in a statement.

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, has said in the past that he was worried that Russia was going down the Chinese route of internet censorship. Google have closed their search engine within China after refusing to cooperate with government censorship.

Google isn’t the only company to have moved from Russia. In September 2014, Adobe Systems closed down their Russian office, with a newspaper reporting that the firm were unable to meet the requirements of the new law and were unable to close deals due to sanctions.

“The changes in the political situation make it less viable, less feasible to maintain engineers here, and that is not even counterbalanced by the fact that engineers get cheaper by the day because of the [falling value of the] rouble,” said Anton Nossik, a Russian web entrepreneur who is a founding member of the Russian blogosphere.

“There are a lot of counterproductive measures, not only [government] pressure but also the general unpredictability of how the situation will develop. One thing that is predictable is that it will develop for the worse. The only thing we don’t know is how fast regulations limiting foreign activities on the Russian market will be adopted”, he continued.

Google isn’t the first company to begin pulling out of Russia and they’re unlikely to be the first. When the majority of the world want an open and free internet, Russia’s behaviour is against global business practices.

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