Russian authorities want encryption backdoors in WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber

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Russian Flag. Image Credit: Komtv.org

A Russian news agency, CurrentTime, reports that authorities in the country are working on a new legislation that will make encryption backdoors in messenger apps mandatory. This report was re-published in English by Softpedia,

The bill, which seeks to force chat apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and the likes to add encryption backdoors to their services, has already passed through the Russian Parliament’s Committee on Security and has gained support from FSB (Federal Security Service).

According to the sponsor, Senator Yelena Mizulina, the bill has become inevitable considering how criminals use chat apps with encryption technology to commit all kinds of criminal activities. Mizulina drew the attention of all to a case where criminals brainwashed teenagers to kill police using the group channels of some of the apps.

“Maybe we should go back to the idea of pre-filtering. We cannot look silently on this,” Mizulina said, in direct reference to the Russia’s plan to inspect encrypted communications for specific reasons.

The bill seems to be enjoying a smooth sail and may not experience much stumbling block before it finally becomes a law in Russia. Support for the bill has also come from none other than the Russian Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov, according to Russian news agency TASS. The minister had in the past complained on the encryption technology being adopted by chat apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber.

The bill also seeks to include various fines for citizens of Russia who use the encrypted apps. Citizens will be fined between $45 and $77, officials from $4,500 and $7,700, while companies will be fined between $12,400 and $15,500.

A combined 22 million people use Skype, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and the likes in Russia. The bill is a threat to the right to communicate and free speech on the masses and could further cast doubt on the activities of the apps.

The services of Facebook-owned WhatsApp were suspended for 72 hours by a court in Brazil for its refusal to turn in encrypted data of a user in May. The court ruled that the service of the chat app be suspended for 72 hours; adding that carriers in Brazil deny WhatsApp access to their services while the ban lasted. This drew the ire of millions of WhatsApp users in Brazil and across the world. Though, the suspension was lifted by another court before the 72-hour suspension expired, the effect of the ruling caused concerns for millions of people all over the world.

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Image Credit: Zululandobzerver

The Iranian government is also making moves to force Telegram to host its data within the country; a move that will enable the Islamic country to monitor the chat activities of its citizens.

Perhaps, this could just be the first of many legislation to come as countries start to show how uncomfortable they are with the new encryption technology being adopted by a lot of chat apps these days.

The encryption technology prevents third party snooping on conversations between users of those apps.

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Author: Ola Ric

Ola Ric is a professional tech writer. He has written and provided tons of published articles for professionals and private individuals. He is also a social commentator and analyst, with relevant experience in the use of social media services.

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