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Data Retention in Russia – What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

If you’re concerned about data retention laws in Russia, we’ll teach you about the current state of affairs. You’ll learn how your data is at risk, plus how to control your privacy online with a VPN.

Data retention laws have long been a concern of Internet activists, as they violate basic rights to privacy. After all, more and more people have online access, thanks to ever-cheaper computers and phones. This has given governments a new vector of control over their citizens, and they are eager to use it.

This is especially true in Russia. Today, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about Russian data retention, plus how to protect yourself.

Data retention laws in Russia

Under a law passed in 2015, any Russian and foreign companies which store data for Russian customers, must do so specifically on servers located within Russia. This may seem relatively innocuous at first glance, but it represents a vast overreach by the Russian government. After all, if servers are physically located in Russia, the government only has to change some laws or even use brute force gain access. This puts troves of Russian user data at risk, even if those people live outside the country.

What data this law encompasses is vague and wide-reaching, and according to privacy advocates, ripe for abuse. Furthermore, there is significant concern over how well such a law can even be enforced, since its scope includes foreign companies.

Unsurprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in favor of these laws, and wants even more access to the stored data for domestic security. He has even gone as far as to call the entire Internet a “CIA Project“, using this as justification to clamp down on the rights of his citizen’s online rights while undermining the reach of geopolitical rivals, like the USA–all in the name of national security.

In the years since, authoritarian pressure on businesses, bloggers, and individual netizens has only increased.

Big Brother Roskomnadzor

Enforcing this new ruling is the Roskomnadzor, also known as the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. Companies which fail to comply are initially met with a penalty of 300,000 rubles ($5,000 USD). However, Roskomnadzor has the ability to force Russian ISPs to blacklist offenders, representing a catastrophic escalation of retaliation.

The Russian government has even gone so far as to fight against the use of HTTPS, as well as blocking sites like Wikipedia and banning government officials from using services like Google, Telegram, and WhatsApp.

Take back your privacy with a VPN

It make seem impossible to fight against the Russian government’s efforts to take away Internet freedoms, but in some ways it’s quite simple. Namely, by installing a VPN onto your device.

Virtual private networks enable ordinary people to hide their activity online behind a wall of military-grade encryption, making it all but impossible for the Russian government to penetrate through brute force. What’s more, VPNs route that encrypted traffic through their remote server network, thereby anonymizing users’ IP addresses.

In order to protect yourself against Putin, Roskomnadzor, and Russian oversight in general, try one of these two top-tier VPNs:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has it all: privacy and performance at a great price. Central to ExpressVPN’s success is its robust server network, which spans over 3,000 remote nodes in 94 countries globally. Not only does this allow you to borrow an astonishing number of false IP addresses, it allows you to dial in the most optimized, stable connection no matter where in the world you are or go.

256-bit AES encryption currently has no weaknesses, making it the perfect tool to ensure your privacy online. ExpressVPN also has an exceptional no-logging policy, which ensures the company will never keep identifiable data on hand to be requisitioned by the Russian government. Your subscription covers up to 5 of your devices at once, and there’s sleek software for every major operating system.

BEST OVERALL VPN: ExpressVPN is our top choice VPN. Our readers get an exclusive 49% discount and three months FREE on the annual plan. Try it risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee attached.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN offers a truly heavyweight service at the fraction of the price of most other top-tier VPN providers. It starts with a massive server network, spanning 5,100+ servers in 59 countries, with specialty servers optimized for applications like P2P, onion over VPN, anti-DDoS, multi-hop VPN, and more. Of course, NordVPN doesn’t skimp on the basics either, with 256-bit AES encryption as the default on all connections.

NordVPN prides itself on a sterling no-logging policy, even going so far as to seek an independent audit of their claims to quell naysayers. Software is available for all major platforms, and your subscription extends to 6 simultaneous device connections for the ultimate in protection.

BEST BUDGET VPN: NordVPN is your cheapest solution for a premium service. Readers get the 3-year plan with a 70% discount at just $3.49 per month. All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.


Make no mistake: The Russian government is actively hostile to the idea of a free and open Internet, and will continue to clamp down on how this vital technology is used by businesses and individuals within its borders (and abroad). If you don’t like the idea of the Roskomnadzor breathing down your neck, you need a VPN. We recommended our two favorite providers that make it easy to get started in just a few minutes.

What are your biggest fears from the Russian government? How will you use your VPN to hide your activity? Tell us about it in the comments below

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