News & Events

Amendments to Russian Personal Data Law

Submitted By Firm: Castrén & Snellman

Contact(s): Tomi Kemppainen


Date Published: 7/2/2015

Article Type:

Share This:

From 1 September 2015, Russia will impose restrictions on the processing of the personal data of its citizens outside Russian territory. This Legal Alert contains a brief overview of several legislative changes which may affect international companies operating in Russia.

Localisation Requirement 

The amendments state that the data operators (entities performing the functions of both controllers and processors, to use international terminology) are obliged to ensure recording, systemisation, accumulation, storage, clarification (update, change) and extraction of personal data of citizens of the Russian Federation with the use of databases located in the territory of the Russian Federation when collecting this personal data in any manner, including via the Internet (the Localisation Requirement).   

The Localisation Requirement, which will be incorporated into the Federal Law On Personal Data Nr 152-ФЗ dated 27 July 2006 (the PDL), may be understood in such a way that it will be illegal to collect personal data of Russian citizens, immediately send it to servers located outside of Russia and then process this data without the involvement, one way or another, of a Russia-based data store. Consequently, Russian offices of international companies will be unable to use global ICT Systems in the same way as before. Many e-business companies may suffer problems with their Russian operations too.

The amendments do not touch upon the PDL s rules allowing transborder transfer of personal data. For that reason, it seems legal to connect Russian data stores to global ICT Systems or send the data to affiliated entities which are located abroad. However, many practical issues remain unanswered. It is unclear whether or not it will be possible to duplicate all data processing operations carried out on a Russia-based server to a foreign server and vice versa. The amendments say nothing about personal data collected before their entry into force.

We note that the Localisation Requirement does not cover the personal data of non-Russian citizens and stateless persons, even if their data is collected in Russia. It would be possible to continue processing such data in the same way as now as long as it is separated from the data of Russian citizens.

The Localisation Requirement provides for several exceptions, but only one of them is of value to most of international companies. Under a certain interpretation, the Localisation Requirement could be seen to be inapplicable to personal data of the Russian employees. Specifically, the obligation to process data in Russian databases will not be applicable if personal data is processed either for purposes stipulated by an international agreement of the Russian Federation, for purposes set out in law or for exercising the powers or performing the functions and obligations of data operators under Russian law. The purposes for which employers process the data of their employees are defined by law (Article 86 of the Labour Code); moreover, most of these purposes relate to the fulfilment of the employer s obligations and the exercise of the employer s powers, which are also specified in the Labour Code. We note, however, that this approach cannot be applied to job applicants.

Notifying Roscomnadzor of the Location of Servers

Under Article 22 of the PDL, before a data operator proceeds to processing any personal data, it must notify the Russian data protection authority (Roscomnadzor) in writing of its intention to do so. By way of exception, it is not mandatory to notify Roscomnadzor, for example, of the processing one’s own employees’ data or the data of contractors used in order to conclude or execute a contract with them, provided that such data is not transferred to third parties without the express consent of the data subjects.

When the amendments become effective, the notification form will also include information on the location of the databases where personal data of Russian citizens is stored. Russian law does not clarify whether data operators will be obliged to update notifications that have already been filed.

Strengthening Personal Data Inspection Procedure  

Beginning from 1 September 2015, the provisions of the Federal Law ‘On Protection of Rights of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs When Performing State Control (Supervision) and Municipal Control’ Nr 294-ФЗ dated 26 December 2008, establishing the procedure for the organisation and execution of state inspections, would no longer be applicable to Roscomnadzor’s inspections of personal data operators. This amendment may lead to an increase of supervisory activities in the sphere of personal data.

Blockage of Websites for Violations of Personal Data Laws

Roscomnadzor will be given powers to block access from Russian territory to websites if illegally processed personal data is placed on them (e.g. if they do not fulfil the Localisation Requirement). For this purpose, Roscomnadzor will enter the banned domain names, network addresses and other details in a special state register. A website can be blocked only on the grounds of a court act. The website owner will be informed of the violation of personal data laws prior to blocking the website and will have one day to rectify this violation voluntarily. The website owner will have the right to apply for the exclusion of its website from the state register after all personal data violations have been rectified or if a court reverses the act on the blockage of access to the website.

Most probably, these rules will apply to social networks, blogs, online shops, customer services and other websites through which personal data can be accessed. From a formal point of view, there are no legal grounds to apply new blockage procedures to websites collecting personal data and sending it to data stores provided that this data is not placed on webpages (feedback forms, whistle-blowing systems, etc.).


Apart from the blocking of websites, Russian law provides for surprisingly low sanctions for non-compliance with the PDL. As a general rule, a company will have to pay a fine of RUB 5,000–10,000 (approx. EUR 90–180) for each violation of the PDL. A responsible officer of a company (e.g. CEO or data protection officer) may also be fined personally (the amount of the fine is at most RUB 1,000, which is approx. EUR 18). A failure to eliminate violations at the instruction of Roscomnadzor will be considered non-compliance with an order of a state authority and will entail additional sanctions. Obviously, it may not be possible to bring ICT systems/web-services into line with the Localisation Requirement within a short term.

The Russian Government introduced a bill (the bill in Russian) strengthening the liability and establishing new types of personal data violations. Currently, the bill has passed the first of three readings in State Duma (a chamber of Russian Parliament). According to the current version, a data operator which does not comply with the Russian personal data legislation may be fined for several data privacy violations at the same time. The total amount of fines may reach several thousand euros.

Find a Member

View or print a complete ELA member list »

Client Successes

Altra Industrial Motion Inc.

Altra Industrial Motion Inc. has multiple locations in the U.S., as well as Central America, Europe, and Asia. The Employment Law Alliance has proved to be a great asset in assisting us in dealing with employment issues and matters in such diverse venues as Mexico, Australia, and Spain. We have obtained excellent results using the ELA network for matters ranging from a multi-state review of employment policies to assisting with individual employment issues in a variety of foreign jurisdictions.

In one instance, we were faced with an employment dispute with a former associate in Mexico that had the potential for substantial economic exposure. The matter had been pending for over a year, and we were not confident in the employment advice we had been receiving. I obtained a referral to the ELA counsel in Mexico, who was able to obtain a favorable resolution of the dispute in only a few days. Based on our experiences with the ELA, we would not hesitate to use its many resources for future employment law needs.

American University in Bulgaria

In my career I have been a practicing attorney, counsel to the Governor of Maine, and CEO of a major public utility. I have worked with many lawyers in many settings. When the American University in Bulgaria needed help with employment litigation in federal court in Syracuse, New York, we turned to Pierce Atwood, the ELA member we knew and trusted in Maine, for a referral. We were extremely pleased with the responsiveness and high quality of service we received from Bond Schoeneck & King, the ELA's firm in upstate New York. I would not hesitate to recommend the ELA to any employer.

David T. Flanagan
Member of Board of Trustees 

Arcata Associates

I really enjoyed the Conducting an Effective Internal Investigation in the United States webinar.  We are in the midst of a rather delicate employee relations issue in California right now and the discussion helped me tremendously.  It also reinforced things that you tend to forget if you don't do these investigations frequently.  So, many, many thanks to the Employment Law Alliance for putting that webinar together.  It was extremely beneficial.

Lynn Clayton
Vice President, Human Resources

Barrett Business Services, Inc.

I recently participated in the ELA-sponsored webinar on the Employee Free Choice Act.  I was most impressed with that presentation.  It was extremely helpful and very worthwhile.  I have also been utilizing the ELA's online Global Employer Handbook.  This compliance tool is absolutely terrific. 

I am familiar with several other products that purport to provide up-to- date employment law information and I believe that this resource is superior to other similar compliance manuals.  I am delighted that the ELA provides this free to its members' clients.

Boyd Coffee Company

Employment Law Alliance (ELA) has provided Boyd Coffee Company with a highly valued connection to resources, important information and learning. With complex operations and employees working in approximately 20 states, we are continually striving to keep abreast of specific state laws, many of which vary from state to state. We have participated in the ELA web seminars and have found the content very useful. We appreciate the ease, cost effectiveness and quality of the content and presenters offered by these web seminars.  The Global Employer Handbook has provided our company with a very helpful overview of legal issues in the various states in which we operate, and the network of attorneys has helped us manage issues that have arisen in states other than where our Roastery and corporate headquarters are located in Portland, Oregon.

Capgemini Outsourcing Services GmbH

As an international operating outsourcing and consulting supplier Capgemini has used firms of the Employment Law Alliance in Central Europe. We were always highly satisfied with the quality of employment law advice and the responsiveness. I can really recommend the ELA lawyers.

Hirschfeld Kraemer

Stephen HirschfeldAs an employment lawyer based in San Francisco, I work closely with high tech clients with operations around the globe. Last year, one of my clients needed to implement a workforce reduction in a dozen countries simultaneously. And they gave me 48 hours to accomplish this. I don't know how I could have pulled this off without the resources of the ELA. I don't know of any single law firm that could have made this happen. My client received all of the help they needed in a timely fashion and on a cost effective basis.

Stephen J. Hirschfeld

Hollywood Entertainment Corporation

As the Vice President for Litigation & Associate General Counsel for my company, I need to ensure that we have a team of top-notch employment lawyers in place in every jurisdiction where we do business. And I want to be confident that those lawyers know our business so they don't have to reinvent the wheel when a new legal matter arises. With more than 3400 stores and 35,000 employees operating in all 50 U.S. states and across Canada, we rely on the ELA to partner with us to help accomplish our objectives. I have been delighted with the consistent high quality of the work performed by ELA lawyers. I encourage other in-house counsel to use their services, as well.

Ingram Micro

Ingram Micro is the world's largest technology distributor, providing sales, marketing, and logistics services for the IT industry around the globe. With over 13,000 employees working throughout the U.S. and in 35 international countries, we need employment lawyers who we can count on to ensure global legal compliance. Our experience with many multi-state and multi-national law firms is that their employment law services are not always a high priority for them, and many do not have experts in many of their offices. The ELA has assembled an excellent team of highly skilled employment lawyers, wherever and whenever I need them, and they have proven to be an invaluable resource to our company.

Konami Gaming

Our company, Konami Gaming, Inc., is growing rapidly in a very diverse and highly regulated industry. We are aggressively entering new markets outside the domestic U.S., including Canada and South America. I have had the recent opportunity to utilize the services provided by the ELA. The legal advice was both responsive and professional. Most of all, the entire process was seamless since our Nevada attorney coordinated the services and legal advice requested. I look forward to working with the ELA in the future, as it serves as a great resource to the legal community.

Jennifer Martinez
Vice President, Human Resources

Nikkiso Cryo, Inc.

Until recently, I was unaware of the ELA's existence. We have subsidiaries and affiliates throughout the United States, as well as in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. When a recent legal issue arose in Texas, our long-time Nevada counsel, who is a member of the ELA, suggested that this matter be handled by his ELA colleague in Dallas. We are very pleased with the quality and timeliness of services provided by that firm, and we are excited to now have the ELA as an important asset to help us address employment law issues worldwide.

Palm, Inc.

The ELA network has been immensely important to our company in helping us address an array of human resources challenges around the world. I strongly encourage H.R. executives who have employees located in many different jurisdictions to utilize the ELA's unparalleled expertise and geographic coverage.

Stacy Murphy
Former Senior Director of Human Resources

Rich Products

As the General Counsel for a company with 6,500 employees operating across the U.S. and in eight countries, it is critical that I have top quality lawyers on the ground where we do business. The ELA is an indispensable resource. It has taken the guesswork out of finding the best employment counsel wherever we have a problem.

Jill K. Bond
Senior Vice President/General Counsel, Shared Services and Benefits

Ricoh Americas Corporation

We have direct sales and service offices all over the U.S., but have not necessarily had the need in the past for assistance with legal work in every state where we have a business presence. From time to time, we suddenly find ourselves facing a legal issue in a state where we have no outside counsel relationship. It has been a real benefit to know that the ELA has assembled such an impressive team of experts throughout the U.S. and overseas.

A few years ago, we faced a very tough discrimination lawsuit in Mississippi. We had never had to retain a lawyer there before. I was absolutely delighted with the Mississippi ELA firm. We received an excellent result. They will no doubt handle all of our employment law matters in Mississippi in the future. I have also obtained the assistance of several other ELA firms around the U.S. and have received the same outstanding service. The ELA is a tremendous resource for our company.

Roberts-Gordon LLC

Our affiliated companies have used the Employment Law Alliance in connection with numerous acquisitions, and have always been extremely pleased with our ability to obtain the highest quality legal advice on due diligence issues from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We have found the Employment Law Alliance firms to be not only first rate with respect to their legal advice but also responsive and timely in assisting us with federal and state law issues critical to our due diligence efforts. We consider the Employment Law Alliance to be an important part of our team.

Rockwell Collins, Inc.

We have partnered with many ELA firms on the development and execution of case management strategies with very positive results. We have been very pleased with the legal advice and counsel provided by the law firms we have utilized who are affiliated with the Employment Law Alliance. The ELA firms we have worked with are customer focused, responsive, and thorough in their approach to handling labor and employment law matters.

Elizabeth Daly
Assistant General Counsel


Sanmina-SCI has facilities strategically located in key regions throughout the world. Our customers expect that we will provide them with the highest quality and most sophisticated services in the marketplace. We have that same expectation for the lawyers with whom we do business. With operations in 17 countries, we need to be certain that we have a team of lawyers working together to address our employment law needs worldwide. The ELA has delivered exactly what it promised-- seamless and consistent high quality services delivered in each locale around the globe. It has quickly become a key asset for our human resources department.


We own, manage, and franchise hotels throughout the U.S. and in more than 90 countries. With more than 145,000 employees worldwide, ensuring that we comply with the complex web of local labor and employment laws in every one of these jurisdictions is a daunting task. The Employment Law Alliance has served as an important resource for us and we have benefited greatly from its expertise and long reach. When a legal dispute or issue has arisen in some far-flung place, Employment Law Alliance lawyers have always provided responsive, practical, and cost-effective assistance.

Wilmington Trust Corporation

Wilmington Trust has used the ELA to locate firms in California, Washington State, Georgia, and Europe. Our experience with the ELA lawyers with whom we have worked has always been one of complete satisfaction and prompt, practical advice.

Michael A. DiGregorio
General Counsel