Russia accuses social media giants of flouting data breach laws

The Russian communication watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has begun legal proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for an apparent breach of data laws.

A civil case has been levelled at the popular social media platforms for, Russia maintains, failing to give more details on how they can achieve compliance with the eastern country’s data laws.

Local media groups in touch with Roskomnadzor say the tech giants had not painted a clear enough picture regarding their data stores beyond Russian borders, and how these would be reconciled against regional law.

Current legislation in place within Russia obliges all servers that store Russian citizens’ personal data to be situated within the nation’s borders. Neither Twitter nor Facebook had given a full account of how they would meet this obligation, the Interfax news agency has stated.

According to Interfax chief, Alexander Zharov, the social networks have just one month to bring clarification on the issue at the risk of triggering an official response.

Over the past half-decade, Putin’s administration has tightened up internet legislation, with search engines having to censor or delete certain results. Messaging services have had to pass encryption codes on to Russian security services, and social networks have had to shift all Russian user data to stores in Russia.

Currently, Russia has fairly small teeth when it comes to enforcing data laws, with the government only able to impose minor financial penalties which seldom exceed a few thousand dollars. Alternatively, any online services found guilty of breaking laws can also be blocked, although this pathway throws up numerous technical obstacles before the desired result can take effect.

Towards the end of 2018, information came out of the country that Moscow intends to take a far more robust approach to data security, and that it will push greater fines on tech companies that fail to comply with Russian laws.

The relationship between Russia and social media giants has not been without its blemishes of late. Accounts based in Russia were linked with the spreading of misinformation which reportedly helped swing the 2016 US presidential vote in Donald Trump’s favour.

In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg’s firm erased over 650 pages and groups, citing behaviour that was deemed “inauthentic” or “manipulating”, while Twitter suspended over 280 accounts.

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