Messaging app Viber reportedly bows to Russian data-localization law, relocates user data to new servers

14:21, 19 october 2015

The second-most popular instant-messaging app in Russia, Viber, has begun storing Russian users' data on servers located in Russia, the company's Moscow representative reportedly told the newspaper Izvestia

On September 1, a new law entered force in Russia requiring websites and businesses to store all citizens' personal data on Russian servers. The legislation was initially supposed to come into action only in 2016, but lawmakers accelerated the process last year.

According to Elena Gracheva, Viber's Moscow spokesperson, the company will store users' telephone numbers and user logins, but not their messages, which she says remain on users' devices. 

The Kremlin's media watchdog agency, Roskomnadzor, has said it is postponing until 2016 any enforcement of the data-localization against certain companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Several foreign online services, including eBay, PayPal, AliExpress, and others, have also begun or completed the process of relocating Russian users' data to servers in Russia. 

Earlier this year, there were reports that Google had also agreed to store Russian users' data on servers in Russia, allegedly renting server space from Rostelecom, Russia's leading long-distance telephony provider. According to Izvestia, however, Google has not agreed to move its servers to Russia, and its deal with Rostelecom is only for a local project. Izvestia reports that Google might even be considering abandoning the Russian market altogether. 

Last week, Google officially announced that it has closed down its office in St. Petersburg and moved its staff abroad. The company still operates a development center in Moscow.

According to a July 2015 report by TNS Russia, a media research firm, Russia has 7.1 million Viber users. The country's most popular messaging app, WhatsApp, has 7.5 million users. Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp has so far ignored Russia's new data-localization law. Russia's most popular social network, Vkontakte, which offers messaging features, already operates using servers located inside Russia.