Social networking giant Facebook is facing the risk of being blocked in Russia amid concerns over how the company stores the personal information it collects from its users in the country, according to recent reports. Alexander Zharov, Russia’s head of Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, reportedly warned the Menlo Park, California-based company that the Russian government might decide to order Facebook to cease its operation in the country if the social media titan continues to disregard the country’s laws on how personal data of Russian nationals is to be stored.
Existing rules in the country mandate all companies and organizations to locally host the personal data of users or customers using physical servers in Russia itself. The country's law on data storage that has been in effect since September 2015 aims to put an end to the practice of tech giants hosting personal data of Russians on foreign server farms. Many companies have suffered the consequences for failing to comply with the regulatory framework. The regulation initially faced criticism from many internet companies operating in Russia, though most of them eventually complied with it, Google included. Earlier this year, the country’s regulators forced the search giant to remove LinkedIn’s mobile app for Android from its Play Store in the country after the Russian government started blocking the company’s official website in November. It is not clear, though, whether the Russian government is already planning to officially threaten to ban Facebook in the country as no such moves have yet been made by Moscow.
If the situation comes to the point that Russia bans Facebook in the country, the social networking firm could lose an opportunity to significantly expand its user base in a market that's set to drive the next global growth wave of mobile apps, according to a new research published earlier this year. Facebook is hence likely to comply with Russia's data storage protection law in the near future, though it remains to be seen how the company approaches the dispute in the near future. Apart from Google, tech giants like eBay, Apple, and Twitter are all already complying with Russia's law.