US technology giants Google and Apple have been hit with demands from the Russian government to remove LinkedIn from app stores in Russia. The Microsoft-owned social network, aimed at business professionals, was banned in the country last year over alleged data violations.
Apple confirmed it was tasked with removing the LinkedIn application last December, while Google said it would not confirm the app was removed in Russia but acknowledged it "adheres to local laws in the countries in which it operates," the New York Times reported Friday (6 January 2017).
Last November, the communications regulator in Russia, the Roskomnadzor, ordered internet service providers (ISPs) in the region to block access to LinkedIn after a court ruled the firm failed to adhere with a 2014 law demanding all data collected on Russian citizens be stored domestically.
At the time, Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky said there had been "several cases of LinkedIn users' personal data being leaked since 2010." This was likely referencing the series of major cybersecurity incidents reported last year that impacted LinkedIn, Dropbox and others.
Despite the ban, the firm's app remained accessible in Android and iOS app storefronts.
Additionally, while the restrictions impacted users, it was still possible to reach the website with the use of a virtual private network (VPN). Following the further crackdown, this has now changed, swiftly impacting the firm's six million-strong userbase in the region.
LinkedIn said it is "disappointed" with the regulator's decision and confirmed fresh blocks extended to the firm's smartphone application.
"[The court ruling] denies access to our members in Russia and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their businesses," a spokesperson said in a statement.
In October last year, when speculation of the ban first emerged from Russia's state news agencies, German Klimenko, the presidential adviser for internet issues, said the block would be a "signal" for other firms – including Facebook and Twitter – which also fail to abide by the country's data law.
Tensions between Russia and the US spiked following the series of cyberattacks against American political groups last year, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The US Intelligence Community (IC) claims it has obtained evidence the hackers were aligned with the Kremlin.
Last week, on 6 January, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released an unprecedented report re-affirming the position of the NSA, CIA and FBI that only "senior-most officials" in Moscow could have ordered the state-sponsored cyberattacks.
"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency," the report said.
Meanwhile, on 4 January, it emerged that Apple, following demands from Chinese authorities, had removed English and Chinese-language New York Times applications from the iOS store in China on 23 December last year. Other media apps, including the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, were left untouched, the NYT reported.