Russia is Going After Telegram
Last week, the founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov published a letter from Russia’s domestic intelligence service, the FSB. He published the letter on a Russian social media site he founded called Vkontakte. The letter is demanding that Telegram comply with Russian law to decrypt any communications transmitted over the service, and stating that Telegram is already in violation of the law.
Obviously, Telegram is not the only service that will have to deal with the Russian laws. I’d also say it’s also obvious that Russia will not be the only country making such demands, but that is a conversation for another day. Any messenger or social media operating in Russia will have to deal with these regulations, but it appears that Telegram will be the first, no doubt due to it’s Russian roots.
Telegram is actually registered in the UK, which would of course lead anyone to assume that it was a UK company, and legally, it is. However, there’s a little more to the story than that. Durov and his brother Nikolai, the men behind Telegram, are Russian. Durov has also received citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis. The British company Telegram LLP claims to be based in Berlin. The messenger’s FAQ admits that the brothers and key developers are Russian, but that there is no actual connection to Russia beyond that. One former employee recently claimed that much of the development of the app is done in St. Petersburg. Which could be problematic for Telegram in ways beyond just consumer confidence. If part of the development team is actually in Russia, those individuals could be in legal jeopardy. Remember it wasn’t too long ago that Brazil jailed local WhatsApp employees.
With Telegram’s Russian lineage and the fact that it is a smaller and newer company that Facebook or Twitter, it may have just proven too good a target for the Russian government. Without the legal army and funding behind them that Facebook has, Russia may feel it will be a much easier fight, and prove to be an example for the larger services. In addition, Telegram is a service which claims heightened security, even as Edward Snowden warns that Telegram is less safe due to the fact that it’s messages are stored in the cloud. Russia needs to crack the promise of a company offering secure messaging, and it appears that Telegram is the first target.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 21, 2016