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U.S. asks China to hold off on cybersecurity law

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Washington has asked Beijing to refrain from enforcing a new cybersecurity law that would require foreign and domestic companies to store user data in China and submit to security checks, saying such measures would damage global trade, reported Russia Today.

The Cybersecurity Law was passed by China in November 2016, and went into effect in June 2017. The law states that any “network operators” in China, including any local or international firms that gather data, must store all user data within mainland China.

In the two-page document submitted for debate at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Council for Trade in Services on Tuesday, the US raised concerns over provisions requiring companies to submit to a "security assessment” and prove that the “purpose of the transfer meets standards of legitimacy, necessity, and justification” before they transfer data out of China.

These companies would also be required to undergo security checks from “critical information infrastructure operators” at least once a year.

“China’s measures would disrupt, deter, and in many cases, prohibit cross-border transfers of
information that are routine in the ordinary course of business,” said the US document, according to a copy obtained by the Register. “These conditions would restrict even routine transfers of information, fundamental to any modern business.”

Any “network operator” would need to obtain permission from each individual before they could transfer their user data across the border, the US document noted, describing as “very troubling” that China would require businesses to demonstrate the necessity of transfers.

“This is an extraordinarily burdensome requirement that could disrupt business operations without contributing to privacy protections,” the US document said.

Speaking at the WTO on Tuesday, China’s Ambassador Zhang Xiangchen said that trade protectionism was a major problem.

“There’s no definition of protectionism and each member has his own legitimate right to adopt a trade policy legally in the WTO system. But we have to be cautious to say which one is (legal within the (WTO) ... and which is illegal,” Xiangchen told Reuters.

Washington has requested from Beijing to “refrain from issuing or implementing final measures until such concerns are addressed.” China has yet to respond to the request.

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Russia will block access to Facebook next year unless the social network complies with a law that requires websites which store the personal data of Russian citizens to do so on Russian servers, Russian news agencies reported and published Raw Story (US).

The threat was made by Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, agencies said, the organization which blocked access to LinkedIn’s website last November in order to comply with a court ruling that found the social networking firm guilty of violating the same data storage law.

That case set a precedent for the way foreign Internet firms operate in Russia and other companies are now under pressure from the regulator to comply with the law, which was approved by President Vladimir Putin in 2014 and entered into force in September 2015.

“Everyone needs to abide by the law,” the Interfax news agency cited Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov as telling reporters on Tuesday. “In 2018, everything will be as it should be for sure,” he said, referring to Facebook.

“In any case, we will either get the law implemented or the company will cease to work on the territory of the Russian Federation as unfortunately happened to LinkedIn. There can’t be any exceptions here.”

Twitter Inc had already notified Roskomnadzor that it would aim to localize the personal data of its users by the middle of 2018, Zharov said.

“We understand clearly that Facebook has a significant number of users on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Zharov was cited as saying. “On the other hand, we understand that this is not a unique service, and that there are other social media.”

Asked to comment on the regulator’s demands for Facebook to localize the data of its Russian users, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the U.S. firm had to comply with the law like everyone else.

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