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Airbnb sanctioned by Russia over alleged data storage violations

Russia: Airbnb, along with video streaming service Twitch, social media service Pinterest and supply chain management company United Parcel Service [UPS], have all been sanctioned by Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, for alleged data storage violations.

According to the Moscow court’s press service, Airbnb, Amazon-owned Twitch and Pinterest were found guilty by the Tagansky District Court of breaching Russian legislation on personal data, for allegedly refusing to store Russian citizens’ personal data in the country. All three were subsequently handed fines of two million roubles each [$37,700], while UPS was fined one million roubles [$18,900].

The decision follows Roskomnadzor’s announcement last month that it had opened administrative cases against Airbnb and other large Silicon Valley tech firms that they had breached data storage legislation in Russia.

Last year, Google was fined three million roubles [$46,000] over a similar allegation, before being hit with a larger fine of 15 million roubles [$282,000] earlier this month for a supposed second breach. Google’s Russian subsidiary later filed for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account, leaving it unable to pay staff and suppliers.

Companies found guilty of first-time offences in Russia can reportedly be liable to fines of anything between one and six million roubles.

It is believed that Roskomnadzor was unhappy with the way in which the personal data was stored and the location of where it was stored, which may have been accelerated by censorship on content in Russia since president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on 24 February – which has been labelled simply as a “military operation” in the country since then.

Airbnb’s announced in early April that it was cancelling all existing reservations in Russia for stays or Experiences in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Guests in both countries are also now no longer able to make new reservations anywhere in the world.

Russian and Belarusian nationals living abroad in foreign countries will still be permitted to use the platform, however.

Airbnb’s charitable arm, Airbnb.org, has announced a number of partnerships with charities across Europe to offer free, temporary housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. The organisation is collaborating with the likes of Global Empowerment Mission [GEM], EURORDIS and Planting Peace, Refugees Welcome Italia and Rescate in Italy, Red Acoge and Diaconía Madrid in Spain, Bienvenida in Berlin, Germany, the International Organisation for MigrationHIASNova Ukraine and Save the Children Sweden.

It is also working closely with the federal government in the United States to welcome refugees escaping the conflict.

The home-sharing platform is also planning to shutter its domestic tourism business in China at the end of July, with co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk putting the move down to “pandemic challenges”. Airbnb was already facing significant competition from domestic players including Tujia, Meituan, Ctrip and Xiaozhu, but concerns also persisted about how the Chinese government would utilise any user data it was required to share.

In separate news, the court in Moscow also fined Canadian storytelling platform Wattpad Corp one million roubles for failing to delete content that Russia deems to be illegal.

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