Not the best of times for the 6 million LinkedIn users in Russia right now—access to the website got blocked two days ago. The block, which came on the heels of LinkedIn’s failure to comply with rules asking websites to host their data within Russia, has attracted criticism from various quarters. The U.S government through its embassy in Moscow has expressed deep concern over the block.
The embassy in a statement issued shortly after the block was announced, criticized the decision; describing it as “troubling.” In a statement made available to the press, spokesman Maria Olsen said:
“This decision is the first of its kind and sets a troubling precedent that could be used to justify shutting down any website that contains Russian user data,” said spokesman Maria Olsen in a statement given to various media.”
The rule, it would seem, is giving foreign websites big concerns because of the cost of hosting their data within Russia. Not so with local websites, because virtually every one of them has complied with the rule.
Russia’s reason for asking all data to be localized within the country is to protect its citizens. However, this has been disputed in many quarters; with most people saying the country only is only doing this to gain access to the data.
“It has nothing do to with privacy concerns,” said Andrei Soldatov, co-author of The Red Web, per Voice of America: “It’s all about how to make global companies domestic, how to land them effectively in Russia and Russian jurisdiction, and to make their data accessible to the Russian secret services,” he comments via Facebook Messenger.
LinkedIn on its part, expressed its desire to meet with Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor. In a statement made available to TechCrunch, the company said:
“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.”
What’s the way forward for ardent LinkedIn users? Circumvention maybe! I won’t bet against hundreds of users accessing LinkedIn and other blocked websites through some of the best VPN services available.
“Russia skyrocketed to second position in the number of users of the Tor network in November 2015, after Roskomnadzor blocked Rutracker, so now many users know how to use circumvention tools,” Soldatov said.