If you are in Russia and you want to do business on LinkedIn, hard luck. The Russian government doesn’t allow its citizens to download and install the LinkedIn app on iPhone and Android devices. It is blocking LinkedIn. This is because the Russian government requires apps and websites to keep the data concerning Russian citizens within Russia’s borders.
The LinkedIn app in Russia is still working although there are some hiccups and sometimes the data cannot be accessed. As a step towards blocking LinkedIn in Russia, Google and Apple have been instructed by the Russian government to remove the LinkedIn app from their app stores. So, despite being strong proponents of free speech, Apple and Google have been made to remove the app from its App Store and Google has been made to remove the app from the Google Play Store. These companies are being forced to play a role in the blocking of the LinkedIn app in Russia.
As you read yesterday, China has forced Apple to remove the New York Times app from its App Store in China.
Both Google and Apple have acknowledged that they have been approached by the Russian government to remove the LinkedIn app from their respective app stores, but they haven’t yet confirmed how they are planning to approach the matter, or whether they are actually go ahead and block the LinkedIn app are not.
In a statement to TechCrunch LinkedIn says:
“LinkedIn’s vision is to create economic opportunity for the entire global workforce. We are starting to hear from members in Russia that they can no longer access LinkedIn,” said a spokesperson. “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 localization request.”
Frankly, the current issue with LinkedIn doesn’t seem like a freedom of expression issue. It is more like a legal technicality. Since the Russian law requires that companies store data of Russian citizens within the country’s borders and since LinkedIn might not be complying with this law, it is required to shut down its services within the country. LinkedIn is found to be in violation of a 2014 law that requires all data collected on Russian citizens to be stored within Russian borders.
The concern of different countries might be genuine: after all most of the major Internet technology companies are based out of US and data from all over the world might be ending up in the US.
But countries like Russia and China aren’t exactly known for respecting people’s freedom and in the name of safety and security of the country, many Draconian laws are often implemented. Popular websites and mobile apps remain banned in China. Advocacy groups believe that the Russian government wants all the data of Russian users within the country’s borders so that their activities can be traced easily.
In the meantime, LinkedIn is ready to talk to the concerned authorities and sort out the matter.