Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Russia tightens grip on internet passing bill to prevent personal data being 'given to US criminals'

New move will require international websites to set up servers within the country

Russia has moved one step closer to having insurmountable power over its citizens’ access to the internet, after its parliament passed a bill requiring all personal data be stored within the country.

It means that sites and tech firms such as Google and Facebook may have to establish servers within the country or face being expunged.

The Kremlin says that the move is for data protection purposes only in a bid to avoid sensitive information being sent to the US and “given to criminals.”

Introducing the bill to the State Duma on Tuesday, MP Vadim Dengin said: “Most Russians don't want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where it can be hacked.

“Our entire lives are stored over there,” he adds, the BBC reports.

The move could mean that international websites and apps used by people in Russia could become severely limited to them, with non-Russian firms disallowed from sending information outside its borders.

Due to be implemented in September 2016, the law is seen by critics as an attack on social networks, on the power of public dissemination as well as on free speech.

“The aim of this law is to create ... (another) quasi-legal pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services,” internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told Reuters.

“The ultimate goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in the country and shape a situation where Internet business would not be able to exist and function properly.”

The bill must be approved by the upper chamber and President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.

The tightened grip over internet freedoms is a similar move to that of China’s Great Firewall, where residents and foreigners use proxies and VPNs (virtual private networks) to reroute their information and get around controls.

Officials in Russia also say that the move will protect children from indecent content.

It comes after a law earlier this year which gave authorities the power to limit and remove websites which it deems extremist.

President Putin also approved a law to establish criminal responsibility on those who send or share text, pictures or videos that the government believes falls foul of its policies.

In April Mr Putin called the internet a “CIA project.”