Google is shutting down its engineering operation in Russia ahead of new rules that will require data on Russians to be kept on servers within the country, according to reports.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Google’s move was in response to the proposed rules. The company, which is not pulling its other operations like sales and support out of the country, may perhaps want to avoid exposing its sensitive work to Russian regulations, or make a statement on the proposed law.
Google is moving engineering employees out of Russia, confirmed an anonymous source with knowledge of the development. But the company has in the past moved engineering teams from one country to another and has done this previously, for example, in Finland and Sweden. Moving out engineering staff from Russia would not help Google counter the new law which is more focused on user content, he added.
“We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers and we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them,” a Google spokesman wrote in an email Thursday. He did not confirm the closure of the engineering unit, which was first reported by news site, The Information.
A law in the country that is expected to come into effect next year will require Internet companies to hold data related to Russians at data centers within the country, with strict penalties in cases of default.
Google has run into problems with regulators and new legislation in many countries. On Wednesday, for example, it said it would be shutting down its Google News portal in Spain as well as listings of news snippets from Spanish publications in its global Google News site, ahead of a new intellectual property law in January that will require it to pay for the use of the content.
Google also pulled out partially from China in 2010, deciding not to self-censor its search engine, after it said it had found a cyberattack that targeted the accounts of human rights activists. The company started redirecting users visiting its Chinese search site to its Hong Kong website.
The search giant is not the dominant player in Russia. Yandex, which operates a search engine in Russia, said in October it had over 60 percent share of the Russian search market, including mobile search, citing data from LiveInternet.