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Telegram fined for denying FSB access to messages of St. Petersburg terror blast suspects

The cloud-based instant messaging service Telegram was slapped with an 800,000-ruble ($13,500) fine for refusing to give the Federal Security Service (FSB) data on the telephone communication of the suspects involved in the St. Petersburg subway blast, a lawyer representing Telegram and the suspects in court said on Tuesday.

"Two of the telephones that the FSB requested are the phone numbers of the Azimov brothers who are suspects in the St. Petersburg subway blast," the attorney explained.

According to the lawyer, the suspects in the St. Petersburg subway explosion did not use Telegram and maintained their correspondence through the WhatsApp messenger.

At the same time, the attorney said Telegram had no possibility to provide the information because of some technical aspects.

"Technically speaking, the keys to decrypting mobile chats can't be provided as they are kept on mobile devices. Secret chat decrypting is impossible, in principle," the lawyer said.

"The FSB wants Telegram to embed vulnerability in the system, changing the mechanism of messenger's activity. This may result in hackers intercepting information," he told the court.

At a court session, the company's lawyer noted that the FSB had requested Telegram turn over messaging data held on the phones of Azimov brothers, defendants in the St. Petersburg subway terror blast. The request was rebuffed and as a result, the instant messaging service was fined 800,000 rubles ($13,600). The attorney said the defendants had not used Telegram to communicate, but corresponded via WhatsApp.

Telegram is a popular instant messenger launched by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, which has 100 million monthly active users, according to the company. More than 600,000 new users sign up each day and 15 billion messages are delivered daily.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 12Dec17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 13Dec17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.