2 Apr 2018 13:21

Telegram notifies Roskomnadzor it can't provide keys for message decoding - lawyer

MOSCOW. April 2 (Interfax) - The messenger Telegram has notified the Russian telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor that the demand of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to provide keys for the decryption of users' messages cannot be fulfilled.

"On March 20, Roskomnadzor notified the messenger that the FSB's demand for decoding keys had not been fulfilled and set the deadline at 15 days. The deadline expires on April 4, the day after tomorrow. Telegram has again decided to deign to explain to the officials that the requirements in question are impossible to fulfill in principle," Pavel Chikov, the head of the international human rights group Agora, which represents the messenger in courts, wrote on his Telegram channel.

The messenger's response to Roskomnadzor's notice, published by Chikov, says, "Telegram gives users an opportunity to use two types of message exchange: 'cloud chats' and 'secret chats.' Messages transmitted through 'secret chats' are never stored on Telegram's servers. The correspondence of users of 'cloud chats' is stored in a coded form, distributed among various subsystems, and never stored in one place."

The messenger told Roskomandzor that the creation of a 'secret chat' used "asymmetrical coding and the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm, in which one of the two created parts of a key never leaves the user's device and is not transmitted via communication channels."

"Thus, in the current architecture, the service administrator under no conditions has access to information allowing the decoding of electronic messages that are accepted, transmitted, delivered, and/or processed with its help," Telegram said in its response.

On March 20, the Supreme Court ruled to turn down Telegram's motion on invalidating the FSB's order regulating the procedure of sharing information needed to decode users' messages

A lawyer for Telegram, Ramil Akhmetgaliyev, said that the messenger cannot comply with the FSB's demand for decoding keys.

"Telegram has not yet replied to the FSB's demand. The company deems it its obligation to protect its users' correspondence privacy," Akhmetgaliyev, who represents Telegram in its dispute with the FSB at the Supreme Court, told journalists.

Russian Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov told reporters that Telegram must execute the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the FSB's demand for keys as lawful.

"If the court delivers a ruling, it must be implemented. There are no exceptions for us," the minister said.