This week, Apple and Zoom were fined 2 million rubles ($32,500) and 1 million rubles ($16,250) respectively by Russia for refusing to store its user data inside the country.
Several other companies were also fined for similar infractions, including Google, UPS, and Twitch.
While the legislators are claiming to defend Russia's “internet integrity,” many believe the penalties are being doled out to suppress dissent across the country. Here's what we know so far.
Russia Fines Apple and Zoom for Refusing to Localize User Data
This week, the Magistrates Count in the Taganka District of Russia fined a number of US tech companies for failing to adhere to national regulations. The law they were accused of breaking required them to store local iCloud data within the country.
When the law was first rolled out by Russian authorities back in September 2015, Apple reportedly planned to partner with a local data center to comply. However, in 2019, the software company stated it was finally storing Russian data within the country's borders, raising red flags among legislators at the time.
Despite these claims, this report by Reuters reveals that, to this day, Apple is still yet to transfer data to local servers. As a result, the iPhone maker, alongside video conferencing giant Zoom — which was found guilty of the same offense — are now forced to pay hefty penalty fines.
The Battle Between Russia and Big Tech Intensifies
While this is the first time Apple and Zoom have received a fine of this nature, US tech companies have been the target of Russia's legal force for months.
Since the country invaded Ukraine back in February, major firms including Apple, Googe, Meta, Twitter, and TikTok have each received multiple sanctions over their storage of user data and handling of content deemed to be illegal by Russian laws.
Aside from targeting tech companies, the state is also trying to limit the use of virtual private network (VPN) services. This crackdown has forced a slew of major VPN providers to leave the country, making it increasingly hard for ordinary Russians to access information beyond Putin's iron curtain.
Russian authorities claim to be working in their people's best interest. Yet, as its censorship campaign continues to expand, it's clear these legal jabs are more about restricting information than protecting the data of its citizens.