Russian court blocks Telegram over refusal to give up encryption keys
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If we restrict liberty to attain security, we will lose them both.” A Russian court has determined that security weighs heavier than liberty in a case that pitted social media giant Telegram against the Russian powers, which, Telegram, for now, has lost. Telegram was ordered to go dark across the country for refusing to give up its encryption keys, which could have exposed its users’ data, Bloomberg reported.
Telegram was ordered to hand over its encryption keys by officials of Russia’s versions of the CIA and FBI rolled into one, the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, or FSB. The agency had made numerous requests to Telegram for the keys, stating that it needed the keys to prevent terrorist attacks. Telegram refused each time, arguing that it would give the FSB access to all encrypted chats between its users.
Pavel Durov, who founded Telegram in 2013 with his brother Nikolai, said in response to the ban, “The power that local governments have over IT corporations is based on money. At any given moment, a government can crash their stocks by threatening to block revenue streams from its markets and thus force these companies to do strange things (remember how last year Apple moved iCloud servers to China). At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed.”
Telegram has around 200 million users across the globe, of which about 9.5 million reside in Russia. The social media app has become increasingly popular with the cryptocurrency community around the world as a means to share information and, in some cases, transact sales.
Russia isn’t the only country to take action against the messaging app. Iran is said to be considering a ban on Telegram, arguing that it is transitioning into “an economic platform” that could, by their estimation, damage the rial, Iran’s national currency. Telegram is reportedly used by around 20 million Iranian citizens.
The ban comes as Telegram has been preparing for its Initial Coin Offering (ICO). It just completed round 2 of its ICO presale and has raised around $1.7 billion toward its Telegram Open Network (TON). The TON will offer its own cryptocurrency called the Gram, but there has been no word yet on whether or not the ICO will go forward.