The mobile messaging app Telegram is being threatened with a lawsuit by Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor.

It has filed a lawsuit to limit access to the Telegram after it refused to give Russian state security services access to its users’ secret messages.

It comes after the founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov, reiterated his stance last June against the sharing of confidential data with government entities, despite agreeing to register the company with the Russian authorities.

Limiting access

Telegram is widety used countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East, and reportedly has 200 million active users as of March this year, making it the ninth most popular messaging app in the world.

But it is also controversial, as Telegram allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities.

Russian authorities have previously accused Telegram of enabling terrorists to communicate in secret through the encrypted messaging and have blamed the app for concealing the messages of the suicide bomber who killed 15 people in St Petersburg in April 2017.

The app is also known to have been used by Islamic State for propaganda purposes in the past, especially by those based in Russia, but the company has made efforts to clamp down on these terrorist accounts.

But Russia’s FSB Federal Security Service wants access to some messages for its work, including safeguarding against terrorist attacks.

Telegram has consistently refused to comply with its demands, citing respect for user privacy.

This has led to Russia’s Roskomnadzor filing a lawsuit at a Moscow court on Friday “with a request to restrict access on the territory of Russia to the information resources of … Telegram Messenger Limited Liability Partnership.”

According to Reuters, the watchdog said the lawsuit was connected to statements by the FSB that Telegram was not complying with its legal obligations as an “organiser of information distribution.”

A spokesman for Telegram reportedly did not respond to a request for comment.

Crackable app?

In March last year, both WhatsApp and Telegram issued emergency patches after researchers at Check Point found a “severe vulnerability” for the web versions of the end-to-end encrypted chat applications.

And it should be remembered there is a chance that these apps may not be as secure as some people like to think.

WikiLeaks has previously published sensitive US intelligence data which revealed that American spy agencies such as the CIA supposedly have the ability to bypass the encryption on WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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