Moscow introduced a new law in September that compels Russian taxi firms to submit round-the-clock user data to its Federal Security Service (FSB). This raised the alarm in some of the almost 20 countries outside of Russia that used the Yango taxi hailing service, which is owned by and hosted by the Russian Yandex internet platform – often called “Russia’s Google.”
Yango’s website claims it operates in 600 major cities in 17 different countries throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
Reuters reported in August that, aware of the pending Russian legislation, Finland and Norway had banned Yango and its Dutch partner “Ridetech International,” which was previously called Yandex NV, from transferring any personal data for those using their app to the Russian agency.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority said, “There is an acute risk to privacy as Russian authorities could potentially monitor the movements of Norwegian citizens via Yango.”
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that data protection authorities in the Netherlands have also begun an investigation into the activities and potential threat posed by Yango’s Russian links.
Yandex, one of the crown jewels of Russia’s tech sector has created an Amsterdam registered company to focus on new technologies and handle its international business as a result of the sanctions imposed after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
A Yango statement claimed: “The legal regulations of the Russian Federation have no jurisdiction over the international ride-hailing business of Yango and do not apply to Yango users as they make trips and use the app outside of Russia.”
However, the Meduza.io website reported seeing internal Yandex e-mail exchanges that admitted that “data from all of Yango” is “stored in Russia,” and that there is no “material or logical division” between data collected from users inside and outside of the country. All Yandex’s data centers, the messages stated, were located in Russia, but mention of this to outsiders should be avoided when talking to individuals outside of the company, including international customers.
In June, a Moscow court fined Yandex 2 million rubles ($20,810) for repeatedly refusing to provide the FSB, with information about its users after receiving several thousand demands for information.
Those in need of a ride may still find Uber safer.
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