Google has decided to close its engineering office in Moscow – the decision which was triggered by Russia’s new law on data protection, according to ExtraTorrent.
Starting from 2015, foreign companies in Russia will be required to store Russian users’ personal data on servers located in the country.
Many believe this law will just make it harder for American online companies to work in Russia, and get the country’s secret services closer to the sensitive data held by these companies.
Meanwhile, Google Russia assured its users that they are deeply committed to them and retain a dedicated support team. Google will retain support and marketing staff in Russia, despite closing down the engineering office.
Google obviously doesn’t appreciate the new laws in Russia, which put the users’ data at risk. For example, there even have been rumors that Russian security services have advised officials against using Gmail.
Russia also passed another law in 2014, which requires bloggers with more than 3,000 unique visitors per day to register their personal data with the government, as they are now officially considered media. This regulation has been largely decried as an intimidation tactic.
In response, Google and other tech giants have criticized Russia’s restrictions online. For example, Google voiced concerns that Russia was beginning to copy Internet censorship from China, where Google closed its internet search service 4 years ago after it stopped cooperating with government censors.
It should be noted that a couple months ago, Adobe Systems also shut down its Russian office – according to reports, the American company failed to meet the requirements of the new law and close several deals due to western sanctions against Russia. This past spring Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most popular social network vKontakte, quit his own company after a dispute with its new Kremlin-linked owners.
It should be noted that, unlike the rest of Europe, Google does not dominate the local market: although it is widely used in Russia, the local search engine Yandex controls more than half of the search market there. According to statistics, Yandex became the most popular media channel, while Google was on the fourth place by the number of daily visitors.
Google’s partial leaving Russia surely opens more room for Yandex in the country.