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Google plans to stop engineering operations in Russia. About 100 engineers will be either relocated or lose their job. The search giant made this move in the context of a set of restrictive new laws that force foreign tech companies to store data about Russian citizens on the country’s servers. Moscow hopes the new regulations will prevent further confidential digital data leakage to foreign intelligence agencies.
After the move was announced, a Google spokesperson said that the U.S. company remains deeply committed to its Russian users and customers and had a dedicated team working in Russia to support them.
Google Inc has been running engineering operations in Russia for eight years by now, but the new regulations seem to have been too much. It seems that Russia passed the new laws as retaliation to earlier Western sanctions on its conflict with Ukraine. Experts say that this could turn into the worst diplomatic deadlock in Russia–US/EU relations since the Crimea crisis.
However, the real reason why Google’s engineering operations in Russia were stopped weren’t disclosed by the company. Still, it seems that the web search giant has been put under a lot of pressure in Russia for some time. In the summer of 2013, the Russian government made more than 250 requests of Google to remove links from its search engine.
The new regulations require all foreign tech companies to house data about Russian residents on Russian servers and not on international data storage centers. Western Companies such as Twitter, Facebook will be forced to rent about 1,500 Russian server units and spend nearly 50 million every year.
Some even say that Russian authorities will have unlimited access to these servers and ask for data wipe whenever they want. Also, blog owners with more than 3,000 readers will have to register with the state.
Nevertheless, skeptics say that Russia passed the new laws not necessarily to protect its citizens, but to both stop US National Security Agency (NSA) from gathering confidential information and strengthen its own intelligence agencies.
Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, is a Russian born Jew that had to immigrate with his family to the US because of widespread anti-semitism in Soviet Russia. Brin’s close friends said that one of the reasons Google left China several years ago was Mr. Brin’s intolerance towards communist censorship there.
According to anonymous sources, Google’s decision had nothing to do with Russian politics since the tech giant has also withdrawn engineering operations from Norway, Sweden and Finland. Additionally, the US company plans to invest more in Russia starting next year.