While Congress debates new online privacy rules and the European Union slaps ever more fines on tech giants, another government has been increasing the pressure on Silicon Valley: Russia.
Over the past year or so, Moscow has employed ever more punitive measures against Western technology companies in order to force them to bend to its wide-ranging demands on issues like content censorship, local data storage and market practices. The latest development came last Friday when, in response to pressure from the Russian government, Apple and Google removed an app from its online stores that was meant to encourage users to support candidates aligned with opposition leader Alexei Navalny in legislative elections that took place over the weekend. Russian authorities this summer outlawed Navalny’s political movement and branded it as “extremist.”
The decision by Apple and Google came amid an escalating campaign by the Kremlin to impose costs on Western tech firms that don’t toe the line. In late August, a court in Moscow fined WhatsApp for not locally storing its data on Russian citizens, as legally required—the first such punishment against the Facebook-owned social messaging platform in Russia.