Telegram Forced by Russia to Give their Users’ Encryption Keys
Telegram, the encrypted messaging app, lost an appeal before Russia’s Supreme Court that was attempting to block the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB) from obtaining access to their users’ data, reported Bloomberg.
Last year, the FSB requested Telegram’s encryption keys and the company refused, leading to the company to be fined with $14,000. Today, Supreme Court Judge Alla Nazarova reinforced that ruling and rejected Telegram’s appeal. Telegram also wants to appeal the most recent ruling.
If Telegram does not cooperate with the court’s decision, they could be fined again and even have the service suspended in Russia which has their biggest customer base. Telegram’s lawyer said that a separate court ruling and action from communications regulator Roskomnadzor would be needed for the service to actually be blocked.
In 2016, Russia passed laws to fight terrorism, which required messaging services to give authorities the encryption keys for their users’ correspondence. Telegram has confronted this decision, but the FSB argues that their access to encryption keys doesn’t invade users’ privacy since they do not have information about an individual, and that any data obtained by using keys would still need a court order.
“The FSB’s argument that encryption keys can’t be considered private information defended by the Constitution is cunning,” said Telegram’s lawyer, Ramil Akhmetgaliev. “It’s like saying, ‘I’ve got a password from your email, but I don’t control your email, I just have the possibility to control.’”
Telegram recently raised $850 million for the launch of their initial coin offering (ICO), and is looking to run another private pre-sale with the purpose of raising the overall sum to over $1.6 billion. The company’s newest development is the Telegram Open Network, or TON, an Ethereum-like environment that has apps, services, and a store for digital and physical items.