Roskomnadzor withdraws petition to block access to mailbox.org in Russia

Yesterdy morning in Moscow, the Taganskiy court heard case number 02-4272/2019. Our attorney informed us that the defense strategy had been successful, as the representatives of the Russian telecommunications supervisory authority Roskomnadzor declared their intention to withdraw the petition to ban access to mailbox.org in Russia.

We don't know if Roskomnadzor had planned to score any political points with this case but if they had, it certainly didn't go well. Present at the hearing were the representatives of Roskomnadzor and the Russian security service FSB, our own attorney, and apparently, also two journalists. However, no courtroom drama was to follow – instead, Roskomnadzor simply pulled out of the case.

In the run-up to these events, mailbox.org had agreed with our legal representative that we would allow our business contact details to be included in the Russian telecommunications register. This information comprises mailbox.org's postal address, commercial register number, and e-mail contact address – all freely and publicly available from our website disclaimer. mailbox.org has not entered into any further agreements with Roskomnadzor. The information given is similar to that held in Germany by the Bundesnetzagentur supervisory authority.

mailbox.org continues to be critical of the objectives and general practices of Roskomnadzor: We are not a Russian provider, have no Russian services, and to our knowledge, no Russian user base either. Hence, we don't see any legal reason why we should be obliged to be on the Russian telecommunications register. However, since the information we agreed to supply is publicly available from our website anyway, we decided it’s better to voluntarily provide this limited amount of information in order to defuse the situation somewhat, and avoid giving Roskomnadzor a pretense to call for the more drastic action of banning mailbox.org entirely, be it for political or whatever other reasons.

So, as a result, access to mailbox.org will remain available in Russia for the time being, and we appreciate this outcome as it helps maintain a free Internet and secure communication. The fact that a ban had been publicly announced and was then withdrawn sends a strong political signal.


Our data will never be stored in foreign countries

Still, there were activities going on behind the scenes to attempt and interpret the outcome as a win for Roskomnadzor. A report by the Russian news agency Interfax suggested that mailbox.org had agreed to general data storage within the Russian territory. This is false. We strongly deny such insinuations and stress again that mailbox.org will never permit the storage of any user data in Russia. An entry in the Russian telecommunications register does not entail any obligation to do so, and by the way, it would be illegal with respect to established German and European laws, including those on data protection.

It remains to be seen if the FSB and Roskomnadzor will initiate further actions against mailbox.org in the future. Currently, there are further similar cases ongoing against other providers (Reported on by the Heise and Golem news outlets). At the end of January, access to Protonmail had been blocked in Russia, with much fanfare in the media.

After we have demonstrated that mailbox.org will resist both on the legal track as well as by raising public awareness, it is our hope (based on the assessment of our attorneys and legal advisors) that the Russian side will now let the matter go. In the event that the FSB or Roskomnadzor come back to demand data storage inside the Russian territory, we will fight back against any such requests with the utmost fervor – under no circumstances will we let this happen.

At the bottom line, we will never be pressured or forced to comply with illegal requests by attempts to block access to mailbox.org, or any threats of doing so, by anyone.