Doing business in multiple countries is very tricky business. You have to be mindful of each countries’ laws, which, of course, vary from country to country. That’s especially true when it comes to data storage and retention, and sometimes even the biggest companies have no choice but to comply. That’s the situation Apple faced in Russia and a recent filing showed that it has conceded to the government’s demands to store Russian users’ data on servers hosted in Russia.
Some might think that’s only natural but the choice of server location is a strategic one. In addition to technical considerations, like proximity to users and bandwidth, companies also have to take into account the laws of the country that will host the server. And some countries like Russia and China have some rather strict requirements on where data about their citizens are stored.
Although Apple tried to fight the legislation, it finally caved in to a Russian law that took effect in 2015. Apple made a similar concession in China for which it was severely criticized. In this case, Apple is storing Russian users’ names, delivery addresses, email, and phone numbers on data servers in Russia. Apple says that these are the pieces of information necessary for customer service and, at times, advertising.
The filing spotted by Bloomberg doesn’t mention other personal data, like photos, contacts and messages. In other words, it probably doesn’t store iCloud data on Russian servers. In addition, all data it stores in any server is promised to be encrypted, says the company, and only the user has the key to unlock it.
That, of course, has been a major point of contention between Apple and governments, including the US. Apple contends that forcing companies to store citizens’ data on local soil doesn’t help and may even hinder efforts to protect national security. Apple does have measures in place to prevent governments from gaining access to users’ data through encryption, but it remains to be seen how it will fair against Russia.