The founder of secure messaging app Telegram, Pavel Durov, agreed to register its details with the Russian government, after the country’s regulator threatened to block the app. However, he made it clear the company would not share private user data.
“Telegram provided all legally required information for entry in the register of information dissemination organisers. In the near future the messenger will be included in the register,” Russian regulator Roskomnadzor said on its website.
According to Russian news outlet RT, if Telegram registered its details with the government, it may have to share user chats with law enforcement services.
However, Durov tweeted: “We’ve no issue with formalities, but not a single byte of private data will ever be shared with any government.”
In a statement published on the VKontakte social network, also founded by him, Durov said Roskomnadzor claimed it had no interest in gaining access to users’ personal correspondence and he would not adhere to any laws not compatible with the protection of privacy and Telegram’s confidentiality policies.
He said he would agree to: “the level of cooperation demonstrated in all other countries, namely, to continue to work together to remove public materials related to the promotion of terrorism, drugs, incitement to violence and pornography, as well as to continue to work to curb spamming.”
“I am sure of one thing: if you really think Telegram will be blocked in Russia, it will not happen because we have refused to provide information about our company,” he concluded.
He might have been alluding to Russia’s Federal Security Service’s (FSB) statement that Telegram was used by terrorists to plan attacks in the country.
FSB said Telegram provided “terrorists with the opportunity to create secret chat rooms with a high degree of encryption”.
It explained a suicide bomber who attacked Saint Petersburg in April had used Telegram to coordinate with accomplices.
Durov said the communications regulator had asked his company to allow security services to decrypt user messages.
He said this not only violated the constitutional rights of users, but also was not technically possible. The founder also hit back by saying if Russia banned his app, terrorists would simply switch to rivals such as WhatsApp, which also offers end-to-end encryption.
“If you want to defeat terrorism by blocking stuff, you’ll have to block the internet,” wrote Durov.
Earlier, Durov had said US agencies attempted to bribe him because they wanted his company to weaken its encryption or install a backdoor.