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Telegram is being ordered by Russian Federation to hand over user encryption keys

21 March 2018, 04:25 | Tara Lloyd

Telegram messenger logo on a computer and a smartphone

Russia’s Supreme Court orders Telegram messenger to hand over encryption keys to security services

Telegram could eventually be blocked in Russian Federation if it does not comply.

Messaging app Telegram may have lost its long-running privacy battle against the Russian government.

Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said Tuesday it will block Telegram, the popular instant messaging service, if the company does not provide encryption keys necessary to decode user data within 15 days.

Telegram had appealed against an earlier ruling, but the Supreme Court rejected that appeal earlier today.

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However, this move could also put some Telegram users in serious risk, especially given reports that the FSB may be responsible for poisoning defectors or other people who have been critical of the Russian government and its leader, President Vladimir Putin.

The FSB said the app was used by a suicide bomber who killed 15 people in St. Petersburg a year ago.

The FSB, which was built from the remnants of Russia's infamous KGB spy agency, claimed that Telegram had been used by a suicide bomber who killed 15 people in St. Petersburg a year ago.

A court in Moscow on October 2017 found Telegram Messenger LLP responsible for violating the Code of Administrative Procedure's requirement for disclosing to law enforcers requested information about messages being exchanged by its users and fined the company 800,000 rubles. "Telegram will stand for freedom and privacy", Durov wrote.

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The FSB is not asking to see user messages directly, but encryption keys - technical details that would allow security agents to access electronic messages shared through the app if authorities have reason to suspect a threat.

Privacy defenders warn that could give authorities broad range to crack down on dissent. But any decision to block the service would require a separate action by communications regulator Roskomnadzor and a court ruling, the lawyer said.

Telegram, based in Britain, was under threat of closure in Russian Federation previous year. Companies on the register must provide the FSB with information on user interactions.

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