Two years ago, Russia made a demand that all ISPs give backdoor access to applications. Encrypted messaging app Telegram, did not comply however. They went to court instead. Telegram was first slapped with a $14000 fine and then asked to provide Federal Security Services its encryption keys last year. They have also now lost a bid before Russia’s Supreme Court to block security services getting access to users’ data according to a Bloomberg report.
Supreme Court Judge AllA Nazarova rejected Telegram’s Appeal. Telegram now has 15 days to provide the encryption keys. This means President Vladimir Putin gets a victory in his effort to keep tabs on electronic communications.
How It Played Out
In 2016, Putin signed laws that required all messaging services to provide government authorities with access to user data. These laws were signed in a bid to fight terrorism. Telegram refuted these laws with two claims however. First, that the process breaches privacy constitutional rights. Second, that it did not involve a court order. Then came the $14000 fine and the order to provide Federal Security Services the encryption keys from the court. Telegram bade arguing that it was unconstitutional, and refused. The FSB disagreed. They claim that as collecting data would still require a court order, holding encryption keys did not violate the constitution.
Telegram’s lawyer, Ramil Akhmetgaliev has come out to say, that the company would be appealing the ruling. Claiming that they believe any decision by Russia to block the service would require a separate court ruling. In a statement by him after the court hearing, he is quoted to have said, “The FSB’s argument that encryption keys can’t be considered private information defended by the Constitution is cunning. 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”.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Telegram’s founder has appeared defiant. He said, “Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users won’t bear fruit. Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy”.
Telegram has been criticized for using its own home-grown encryption. They are accused of not using end-to-end encryption by default, only in so-called Secret Messages. With end-to-end encryption, a service would be unable to hand over encryption keys as it wouldn’t know them.
Government overreach is no joke. One has to wonder if Telegram’s niche goes, whether they will continue on, and what will happen with its Gram coin that is estimated to be worth as much as $2.55 billion. This news comes just after Telegram was pulled from the App Store when Apple learned it was serving child pornography.