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Encrypted chat app Telegram warned by Russian regulator: 'comply or goodbye'

Moscow says it's about regulatory rules; Telegram says it's about encryption

Russia's communications regulator is threatening to lower the boom on popular encrypted messaging application Telegram.

It might look like yet another government attack on user-accessible encryption, but in this letter, the head of regulator Roskomnadzor Alexander Zharov says the messaging app is violating Russian legislation by not providing information about the company that controls it.

Zharov wrote on Friday that Telegram only has to “fill in a questionnaire” about the company that manages Telegram, so the company can be included in the country's register of service providers.

“In the case of an actual refusal to perform the duties of the organiser of the dissemination of information, Telegram in Russia should be blocked,” the letter states, adding that Telegram's time is running out.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov told newswire Reuters a ban would mean Russian government officials will be entrusting their communications to messenger apps written in other countries.

In playing the nationalism card, Durov cited WhatsApp, Viber, Apple and Google as companies who might carry messages from Russian officials and their friends.

He is skeptical that the regulator is mostly cranky about corporate structure.

In a post, he said Telegram was blamed for a terrorist plot three months ago, but that banning such tools is unsafe for everyone: “Encryption of these services or equally protects all users … Refusal of terminal encryption in a single country will make tens of millions of people vulnerable to attack by hackers and blackmail [by] the corrupt officials.”

In an earlier post, he said Roskomnadzor had demanded Telegram give keys to decrypt to special services.

“This requirement is not only contrary to Article 23 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation on the right to privacy of correspondence, but also demonstrates the lack of knowledge of how the encrypted communication [works] in 2017.”

Moreover, endpoint encryption exists separately to any specific platform, he noted. ®

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