The encrypted messaging service loses Russian Supreme Court bid to block access, but it won’t comply.
In June last year, the Russian government threatened to ban the Telegram messaging service if it didn’t hand over information about its users. The reason for the demand was a response to news that a suicide bomber in St. Petersburg had used Telegram to plan the attack. Telegram founder Pavel Durov viewed this as Russia exploitating of a tragedy in order to grab more control.
The demand for access did not go away. As Bloomberg reports, Telegram just lost an appeal before Russia’s Supreme Court to block the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB) from accessing user data through the sharing of encryption keys. The service now has just 15 days to hand the encryption keys over to the FSB. Failure to do so would likely see Telegram blocked in Russia where an estimated 9.5 million people use it regularly.
Telegram’s lawyer, Ramil Akhmetgaliev, points out blocking the service would require a separate court order. He also said that the FSB had been “cunning” by arguing that sharing the encryption keys doesn’t violate users’ privacy because on their own they contain no personal information. Akhmetgaliev responded to that argument by explaining, “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.'”
As far as Durov is concerned, Russia can just continue the threats, “Threats to block Telegram unless it gives up private data of its users won’t bear fruit. Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy.” In other words, there’s clearly no intention of ever sharing the encryption keys with the FSB. The service will choose being blocked over compromising its users.