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Google Denies Russian Media Claims on Data Localization Move

Images remixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Images remixed by Kevin Rothrock.

After reports in Russian media alleged that Google was bowing to Russia's demands and moving to store Russian users’ data on servers inside the country, Google representatives denied these claims and told Global Voices these reports were “inaccurate.”

Last week, RBC news agency reported that Google allegedly agreed to comply with the Russian data retention law and had already moved some of its user data storage facilities to data centers on Russian soil. RBC said this was revealed at a conference hosted by the Russian Communications Ministry in late March, for which RBC was able to procure a transcript. RBC reported that a representative of Rostelecom, one of Russia's leading telecommunications providers, claimed they were hired by Google to store their data at a “high-security data-server facility with close ties to the state.” But after the fact, Rostelecom refused to comment on the matter.

Global Voices contacted Google policy staff members to inquire about the claims. They said the reports about Google storing user data in Russia were “inaccurate,” but gave no further details on Google's reaction or actions in regards to the data retention law and its demands.

Google's denial of their collaboration with Russian authorities comes on the heels of reports about other companies, like eBay and PayPal, agreeing to start storing Russian user data in Russia, as mandated by the new data retention law that comes into power on September 1, 2015.

If RBC's sources misrepresented Google's actions in this case, this leaves many questions unresolved. Why would they do this? Who would benefit from such a misrepresentation? Russia certainly wants its new law to be recognized by international Internet companies doing business in Russia, and having an important player like Google on their side would be a definite advantage. But insisting Google agreed to the data localization demands when they did not would help no one, and would only make the Russian authorities look more desperate in their quest to increase control over the activities of Russian users.

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