The largest internet company in Russia is under fire from the Russian security service FSB. It insists that Yandex hand over the encryption keys of its internet services, including e-mail, a taxi app (the popular Yandex Taxi service) and cloud management.
Yandex is the Russian counterpart of Google and, just like that company, is everywhere.
Yandex refuses to comply with the FSB demands out of respect for the privacy of its users. The popular Russian app service Telegram found itself in a similar situation more than a year ago. This company has managed to bypass its blockade with sophisticated virtual private networks (VPNs).
Yandex has its own browser, an internet advertising service, an online translator, a catering service and an e-mail service. Between 24 and 30 million Russians use it. Two years ago, Yandex took over the Uber taxi service in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The annual turnover is more than € 1.2 billion.
The secret service wants to use the encryption keys to gain access to the most important services: e-mail and cloud administrator Yandex.Disk, the Russian equivalent of Google Drive. Yandex does not want to, because the keys provide access to the passwords of all users of the Yandex services. Sources at the Russian business newspaper RBK report that the secret service had already asked for the encryption keys some time ago and that the usual legal period of ten days had already expired.
Yandex defended itself in a statement on Tuesday. The company argues that it is perfectly possible to comply with the law without violating the privacy of user data. “The purpose of the law is to preserve safety and we fully endorse the importance of that goal.” The statement also refers to the fact that Yandex is not the only company experiencing pressure from the Russian government. In addition to Telegram, the Russian authorities have also focused their efforts on Google and Facebook, albeit for very different reasons. Career platform LinkedIn, part of Microsoft, has been inaccessible in Russia for several years because it did not want to register.
If Yandex continues to refuse, it will initially be punishable by a penalty of more than € 13,000. And if it still persists after that, the judge can block the services of Yandex on Russian territory at the request of the Roskomnadzor internet authority. However, that is not very likely, given the omnipresence of Yandex in Russia. Analysts expect that it will lead to a compromise.
- Russian internet company Yandex – with its well-known Yandex Taxi-service, is under fire from Russia’s secret service.