It looks like Russia is finally going to have its hands on Telegram’s encryption keys. If that doesn’t happen because of the new court ruling that puts it firmly in control of the legal tussle, then the communist country might wield the big stick—probably ban Telegram.
The encrypted messaging app, according to Bloomberg, lost a bid before Russia’s Supreme Court to block security agencies from getting access to users’ data. This puts the country’s president in the driving seat in his effort to monitor activities of electronic media.
The Supreme Court turned down Telegram’s appeal against the Federal Security Service. Based on Tuesday’s ruling by Judge Alla Nazarova of the country’s Supreme Court, Communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Telegram now has 15 days to provide the encryption keys.
In is response to the ruling of the Supreme Court, company lawyer, Ramil Akhmetgaliev said any decision to block the service would require a separate court ruling.
“Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users won’t bear fruit. Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy,” Pavel Durov, founder of the messaging app said on his Twitter page, per Bloomberg.
Allaying the fears of Telegram and its users, the FSB said obtaining the encryption keys does not violate users’ privacy because the keys themselves are not regarded as information of restricted access. The FSB adds that a court order would still be required to collect data on suspects should there be a need for it.
“The FSB’s argument that encryption keys can’t be considered private information defended by the Constitution is cunning,” Akhmetgaliev, Telegram’s lawyer, told reporters after the hearing. “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.”
Last June, Telegram and Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor seemingly found a common ground that designed to see the former continue to offer its services unhindered.
Roskomnadzor had threated to block Telegram if it failed to comply with its data law. The data law in question required the chat app to list its services in Roskomnadzor’s register and provide more information about its services.
While Telegram seems to have agreed to comply with the part of the data law that required it to list its services in the regulator’s register, it [Telegram] insisted that it would not share its confidential user data with local authorities, reports the BBC.
Founder Pavel Durov said in a tweet, per the BBC, that his company would register on the government’s list, but won’t go any further than that. He insisted that his company would not share any user data with Roskomnadzor.
Complying with the controversial directive would mean that Telegram handed over its details to Roskomnadzor. It would also be required to keep and share users’ chat histories and encryption keys with Roskomnadzor when asked to do so.