Telegram fined after refusing to provide user data to Russia

At least it's not a nationwide ban, which was the original threat.

Antara Foto Agency / Reuters

Back in June, we reported on the struggles that messaging app Telegram was having with the Russian government. Russia asked Telegram to hand over confidential user data because it claimed terrorists have been using the service to plan attacks. Now, the latest update in their saga is here. The Meshchansky Court of Moscow fined Telegram 800,000 rubles (the equivalent of about $14,000) for failure to provide the Russian government with decryption keys to user messages.

It's not an outright ban, which is what Russia threatened Telegram with, and the size of the fine implies that Russia's doing this for show. Telegram founder Pavel Durov posted about the decision on the social networking site VK (which he also founded). He claims that the demands of the FSB, Russia's state security organization, are unconstitutional. What's more, they are not feasible from a technological standpoint. After all, providing backdoor access to an app isn't exactly a simple endeavor.

Durov is currently working on appealing the decision. His VK post asks any lawyers interested in this case to contact him; they will choose from the candidates in the next few days. It's not a large fine, to be sure, so Telegram could just pay it, but it's clear that Durov wants to take a stand on the issue of user privacy.