The company behind the Telegram chat application has to hand over the encryption keys of all users to the Russian government. This gives the Russian intelligence service the opportunity to also request all private conversations on Telegram.
Last year Telegram already received a request by the government to hand over the encryption keys, but the company did not agree with that at the time. A fine of $14,000 and a lawsuit followed, in which the Russian government tried to gain access to the data.
‘Violation of privacy’
The company behind the chat program did not want to give this information, because that would be a violation of the privacy of users. But the Russian Supreme Court ruled that no confidential information is obtained by just handing over the encryption keys themselves. The private data of users can only be requested by the intelligence service after a court request has been honored.
In 2016, Russian President Putin signed new anti-terror legislation, authorizing the government to read conversations from chat programs. However, Telegram uses encryption, which means that conversations can only be read with an encryption key. These keys must now be handed over to the intelligence service.
Telegram’s lawyer was amazed at the Supreme Court’s decision. He said the following about this court decision:
“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.
Telegram is used by more than 180 million people worldwide and counts 9.5 million users in Russia. Telegram was founded in 2013 by the makers of VK, the Russian competitor of Facebook. The chat program works on phones, tablets and computers and on various operating systems and stores all data in the cloud. It is the counterpart of Whatsapp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 and which shares all call data with the servers of Facebook since 2016.