Categories: LegalRegulation

Russia Seeks New Fines Against Google, Other Tech Players

Russia’s communications regulator has opened administrative cases against Google and six other foreign technology companies for what it called violations of data protection legislation.

The new case is over Google’s repeated failures to comply with Russian legislation, the regulator Roskomnadzor said on Friday.

It said Google could be fined from 6 million to 18m roubles (£70,000 to £210,000).

The six other cases were against Airbnb, Pinterest, Likeme, Twitch, Apple and UPS, for alleged first-time offences with fines of 1m to 6m roubles.

Tech tensions

The actions come against a backdrom of ongoing tensions between Russia and foreign tech firms that has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The regulator has tried to enforce rules about removing illegal content and allegedly censoring Russian media overseas.

Roskomnadzor has also pressured foreign tech companies to open local offices in Russia and to store data on Russians within the country.

The country fined Google 3m roubles last year over the data storage issue.

Last week Russian bailiffs reportedly seized 7.7bn roubles from Google that had been ordered as part of a fine calculated on the basis of the company’s annual turnover – the first time such a fine had been levied in Russia.

Local news agencies reported that Google’s name had been removed from the registry of debtors of the Russian Federal Bailiffs’ Service (FSSP), concluding this meant the fine, levied late last year for failure to remove banned content, had been paid.

Bankruptcy

In March Google suspended its commercial operations in Russia, such as selling ads, due to US sanctions but has maintained an office in Moscow.

However, earlier this month it said its Russian subsidiary would declare bankruptcy after Russian authorities seized its main Russian bank account and transferred the funds out of the account, leaving it with no funds to pay contractors or staff.

“The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” Google said at the time.

The company has now moved most of its employees out of the country, with many shifting to a large Google office in Dubai, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Google has said it plans to keep making free services such as search and YouTube available in Russia, and a Russian lawmaker said the country has no plans to block YouTube.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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