Data localization laws aren’t uncommon. It is estimated that nearly thirteen different countries have these laws in place. But few countries are as strict as Russia and China.
Both Russia and China have passed laws stating that all citizen data stored by various software companies must be stored within each respective country’s borders.
Yesterday, Microsoft removed LinkedIn from Russian iOS and Android stores amidst pressure from the Russian government.
The Removal of Apps
‘Controversial’ is one way to describe forced app removal. Yet, companies like Microsoft and Apple have agreed to remove apps from iOS and Android stores due to pressure from Russia and China. Last year, Apple removed The New York Times app from Chinese iOS and Android stores after China blocked access to the app.
The removal of LinkedIn from Russian iOS and Android stores has caused a stir with the international community. Russian government officials have been attempting to block the app due to the fact that Microsoft does not store citizen information within Russian borders.
Rather than allow Russia to store and gather this data, the app has been removed - this is why you won’t see Russian companies or people on LinkedIn. Further, any app used by people living within Russia is subject to government surveillance at any time.
‘Extreme’ is another word used to describe complete government control over citizen information. Yet, it’s not just Russia and China that have these types of data localization laws. Even the United States has some laws like these set in place.
Companies working with the Department of Defense must store data within the confines of the department’s borders (‘on campus’ if you will). Justification might be made for government departments like defense that tend to hold country secrets, but it is technically data localization all the same.
Throughout the US presidential election, tensions between Russia and the United States have been mounting - and still are. Some claim that Russia leaked Democratic party emails in an attempt to sway the election. Others claim that the current President-elect, Donald Trump, has strong ties with Russia.
Regardless of these speculations (and they are speculations at this point), the latest move by Microsoft to remove LinkedIn from iOS and Android stores has caused outcries. Many worry that the US might be next to insist on data localization. Microsoft has not yet issued a statement related to the app removal.
The company has simply done so in order to avoid breaking any laws within the country - and to avoid moving all LinkedIn data to Russia. In some ways, refusing to move data is a form of protest in itself.
The Right Way?
Not everyone disagrees with data localization. Some argue that users should have a right to know where their personal data is stored and should have the right to ask that information to be stored inside of their own country.
At present, companies decide where this type of data is stored based on company policy - not on individual or government requests.