Google and Apple have agreed to pull out the LinkedIn mobile app from their app stores in Russia following the government’s demands to do so. The decision comes a few months after a local court ruled that the service violated its data protection regulations.
A spokesperson for LinkedIn confirmed the removal of the apps, saying they are disappointed with Russia’s action to block the app. “It denies access to our members in Russia and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their businesses,” the spokesman told Recode.
Russia’s data protection laws require websites and service operating in the nation to keep its citizens’ data on servers within its borders. Moving data within Russian borders serves as the first step towards more aggressive surveillance measures. The country is willing to block sites that don’t meet its guidelines. However, many web companies have still declined to relocate their data centers to comply with the law.
Since the Microsoft-owned website failed to follow the requirement, the service was ruled to be in violation of a 2014 law. According to The Verge, telecom agency Roskomnadzor blocked the web access to LinkedIn in November, though it was still accessible to users with a VPN. The ban caused major problems for the mobile apps. Still, they remained available on iOS and Android app stores in the wake of that order.
That has now changed, though, as the app is no longer available for download in either store. Both Google and Apple has not released a comment yet. But the iOS developer confirmed Russia’s demands to The New York Times.
‘Agents of Censorship’
The site reports, the demand of Russia to take down LinkedIn from the country’s app stores places Apple and Google in hot waters. Both of the tech giants notably campaign for free speech and an open internet. But governments ask them to become “agents of censorship.”
Separately, Apple also drew fire earlier this week for withdrawing the New York Times app in China under similar pressure. China blocked web access to the Times in 2012. The move came after the publication of articles on the wealth amassed by the family of then-prime minister Wen Jiabao.
It had struggled in recent months to prevent readers from using the Chinese-language app but ultimately omitted it from the app store on Dec. 23.
Growing tensions between Russia and the US
The news of LinkedIn banned in Russia will likely contribute to the heightening tension between the two superpowers.
Just as 2016 was drawing to a close, Washington officially accused Moscow of interfering with the 2016 presidential election. A series of hacking attacks allegedly coming from Russia had the Democratic National Committee as one of its targets. The Obama administration issued sanctions against two Russian intelligence agencies and expulsions against 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives.
The Russian government, however, opted not to retaliate against the actions. Instead, President Vladimir Putin vowed a plan that will restore relations between the two governments once the Trump administration is seated.