Telegram Agrees to Register in Russia but Not Hand Over User Data
Pavel Durov, founder of the popular messaging app Telegram, has agreed to register the company with Russian authorities. However the Russian entrepreneur said Telegram would still refuse to share any private information on its users.
Russia had claimed all it needed was some answers to a questionnaire, in order to record the company on its “registry of information distribution organizers”. However it also threatened to block Telegram in the country if it didn’t receive the information it wanted.
A key Telegram feature its its option for encrypted one-on-one conversations. According to The Register, Durov claimed the request was to force Telegram into giving the Russian government access to these secret conversations.
He said the request was unconstitutional in Russia, and demonstrated the government’s lack of knowledge on how encryption works. Blocking Telegram would simply mean private conversations moved to an alternative encrypted service, like WhatsApp.
Telegram Groups Popular in Cryptocurrency Community
Telegram is popular for its ease of use and streamlined switching between devices. It’s also popular for its group chats — most cryptocurrency projects and interest groups have a Telegram discussion group, some with thousands of members. Group chats, however, are not encrypted.
Durov tweeted that compliance did not involve sharing anyone’s personal information with the authorities:
We've no issue with formalities, but not a single byte of private data will ever be shared with any government https://t.co/HZl5b4kWPt
— Pavel Durov (@durov) June 28, 2017
Telegram does not have any servers in Russia or any other former USSR country, he added, and has no plans to. There is a Telegram server cluster on every continent and Europe’s is located in Amsterdam.
Telegram Still Under Pressure
Providing registry information doesn’t completely take the heat off Telegram, though.
According to FT.com (paywall link), Russia was demanding far more than just company registration information — which is already publicly available. New laws passed last year require “information distribution organizers” to store user metadata for up to three years and communications for six months — as well keys to decrypt private chats.
Durov hinted to FT that if Russia still blocked the service, it would be clear its motivation was to snoop on private conversations.
Durov also founded the Russian social media network VK (formerly VKontakte). He has previously claimed harassment by Russian authorities over that network, especially after he refused to hand over personal information on protestors in Ukraine. He was eventually dismissed from VK in what he alleged was a takeover of the company by allies of Vladimir Putin.
Like Bitcoin’s Roger Ver, he left his home country and became a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis. He is also a self-described libertarian.
Will the Russian government crack down on Telegram? Will it make much difference? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Telegram, Fortune