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Top Russian Court Rules in Favor of FSB Telegram Encryption Demands


A top Russian court has upheld the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) right to demand encryption keys from Telegram, dealing the embattled messaging app another blow in its privacy battle with law enforcement.

The FSB has sought tools to break the app’s message encryption and unscramble private conversations since two suspects were accused of using the platform to coordinate the St. Petersburg metro bombings in April 2017. Telegram maintains that it has no access to users’ encryption keys and says the FSB’s demands are unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the keys to decode encrypted messages don’t fall under the private correspondence protections of the Russian constitution, the Kommersant business daily reported.

The ruling leaves intact the court’s decision on March 20, 2018 that the FSB can legally demand access to user’s encryption keys, Interfax reported.

The dispute will now move to the European Court of Human Rights, where Telegram has registered a complaint, the platform’s lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev told Kommersant.

Telegram was fined $14,000 late in 2017 for failing to provide the FSB with the encryption keys, leading to an eventual court ruling to block the app in Russia.

Russia’s state media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has blocked millions of unrelated IP addresses since April 2018 in an attempt to enforce the court-ordered ban.

Earlier this week, another court in Moscow struck down a lawsuit from a website arguing that Roskomnadzor and the Prosecutor General’s office had blocked it illegally, and seeking compensation for lost profits.

A package of so-called “Yarovaya Laws” that President Vladimir Putin signed in 2016, parts of which came into force this summer, allows the FSB to attempt to access users’ messaging data without a court order.

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