Fastmail Signups Blocked in Russia, Here’s What We Know

Fastmail is the latest email provider to be blocked by Russia.

We strive to make Fastmail’s privacy-first email service available to as many people as possible. We received an order from the Russian Government to comply with their data laws, and we challenged that order in Russian courts. Unfortunately, like many other email and internet service providers, we lost our case. As a result, new Fastmail subscriptions will no longer be available for purchase in Russia.

Russian requirements

In July 2020, the Russian media regulation body, the Roskomnadzor, demanded that Fastmail comply with Russian data laws. This is because Russia has a national goal of controlling the flow of information within its borders. Towards that goal, they want our business to place a server physically within their country, register a local business entity, and become subject to their data access regime.

If we didn’t comply, they stated they had the right to block our website (and possibly all data transmission) between us and anyone within Russian borders.

Our fight over the past year

We engaged a legal team to represent us and challenged Russia’s original demands.

In late 2020, we lost the initial case, with the Russian state police also joining the case alongside the Roskomnadzor. We appealed. Unfortunately, in May 2021, the court upheld the original ruling, denying our appeal.

Having lost the appeal, we examined if we could do what was being asked of us. We concluded that it would not be possible for us to comply from a technical, business, or financial perspective.

Meeting the Russian requirements would mean: finding and placing servers (primary and backup) in a Russian data center, making the technical changes required to ensure that only Russian customer data was hosted there, and keeping Russian data from relying on other worldwide servers. In addition, we might have the cost of setting up a corporate subsidiary in Russia to comply with their registration process. Doing this could create additional jurisdictional exposure because subjecting any of our customers to their data access laws could create unacceptable privacy risks.

Given our minimal number of customers in Russia, the impact of meeting these requirements acceptably was more than we could justify.

We have not been the only target

Many email and digital companies worldwide have had to deal with this situation over the past few years, with similar impacts and outcomes, such as NordVPN, ProtonMail, Tutanota, Mailfence, and StartMail.

What this means for Fastmail customers

We have made the decision to block signups for all IP addresses we identify as coming from within Russia. We have also removed our app from the Apple and Google app stores for customers in Russia.

As of the time of publication, there are no changes to other accounts, and email flow in and out of Russia has not been blocked, but we will continue to monitor the situation.

What you can do if you’re affected

Note: This post has been edited to reduce confusion about the specifics of the court case.

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