Google is to close its office in Russia and relocate its engineers, following a new law passed by the Russian parliament.
The exact number of staff affected by the move has not been specified, but it is not the first time that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) has moved engineering staff out of a country. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales, marketing and support teams will remain in Russia.
The technology giant reiterated its commitment to providing services within the country, releasing a statement which read:”We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers and we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them.”
In July 2014 the Russian parliament, or duma, approved a new law which requires internet companies to store citizens’ personal data on Russian soil. The majority of technology companies maintain huge data storage facilities around the world, but user information is rarely stored in their home country.
Despite government claims that the law will improve data protection, its critics see it as a brazen attempt to censor the Internet. The law contains provisions for the government to block sites which do not comply with its demands on data storage.
Stricter government controls on internet companies have seen Google remove around 250 links from its search results over a 6 month period last year. Other companies are thought to be considering leaving the country.
Google versus government takes a new twist
On the other hand, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) is coming under greater scrutiny from other authorities too. Google News was withdrawn from Spain yesterday, and the European Union has voted for the dismantling of Google on multiple occasions.
The removal of Google engineers from a country is not all that new. The company has previously relocated staff from Sweden, Finland and Norway, with no change in the service offered to users in those countries. Google is fully expected to keep operating in Russia.
The issue of data protection is an increasingly important one, with citizens demanding closer monitoring of the collection and use of their data. On the surface it may appear that the Kremlin is responding to the concerns of the people, but it would be a shame to allow censorship of the internet to creep in through the back door.