Russian court blocks popular messaging app in privacy row

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Moscow's Tagansky District Court's decision to block the Telegram messaging service in Russian Federation is a violation of rights and freedoms, Telegram's lawyer Dmitry Dinze told TASS.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, whose team uses Telegram to arrange briefings for reporters, said on Friday that Russia would not have chose to block the service if the company had fulfilled the requirements of Russian law.

The move was made after Telegram refused to give up the encryption keys they has used to scramble messages, and security officials reported being anxious about potential terror activity on the platform.

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Russia took another step in its campaign against online privacy today, by banning the highly popular encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is owned by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov.

However, according to Telegram, not only is this requirement unconstitutional, it is also technically impossible as the encryption keys keep changing. Roskomnadzor's representatives also said it would restore Telegram service if the company began complying with FSB requests for data. However, the ban could later be lifted if Telegram files a successful appeal. One of the laws required that messaging services to provide the authorities with means to decrypt user correspondence. Russian security services had demanded Telegram provide them with access to users' encrypted messages; Telegram refused on the grounds of protecting user privacy.

Launched in 2013, Telegram is now among the world's most popular mobile messaging apps.

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However, since recipients are still able to screenshot a message, it's not a guarantee of privacy. This passcode will be generated via SMS and there will also be an expiration date on sent emails.

But Mr Pavel Chikov, who leads a group of human rights lawyers representing the app, said the case had proved the efficacy of the service.

On his page in the VK social network yesterday, Mr Durov said the app will use built-in systems to circumnavigate the ban in Russian Federation.

Telegram is based in Berlin, and has around 200m monthly active users. Telegram has been challenging these laws. Its closure led to a slightly surreal situation, in which Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov arranged a press conference call using the app and then announced that they would start using a different app to contact reporters. "Telegram will use built-in methods to bypass blocking, which do not require action from users, although 100% accessibility of the service without VPN is not guaranteed", he wrote.

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