26 Oct 2017 13:22

Telegram appeals 800,000-ruble fine imposed for refusal to cooperate with FSB - lawyer

MOSCOW. Oct 26 (Interfax) - Telegram's lawyers have appealed the administrative fine of 800,000 rubles imposed on the company for its refusal to cooperate with the Federal Security Service (FSB), Pavel Chikov, the head of the human rights group Agora, whose lawyers are representing the interests of the messenger, wrote on his Telegram account.

"Telegram Messenger, LLP has appealed the notice of administrative offense," Chikov said.

The defense gave seven reasons why, in its opinion, the ruling by the magistrate court should be repealed.

The FSB request did not suggest an alternative way to monitor communication between the persons of interest, such as the provision of their decrypted messages, the defense said.

"What the service wanted was decryption keys. However, the provision of this information would create a real threat that the correspondence of an unlimited range of persons could be monitored. The technical peculiarity involved here is that if there were the possibility for third parties to decrypt data and monitor correspondence between the persons of interest, this would provide access to the correspondence of all of the service's users," Chikov wrote.

"The FSB is essentially asking for the ability to decrypt messages sent by all Telegram users, but the very existence of decryption keys, not to mention sharing them with the FSB, would have endangered communication security," he wrote.

What is more, the defense thinks that the magistrate court had no right to hear the case.

"When a foreign legal entity commits an administrative offense in Russia and cannot be involved in a proceeding in Russian territory, all of the material of the administrative case should be referred to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, which will reassign it to the relevant authorities of a foreign country for the purpose of an administrative proceeding," Chikov wrote.

The magistrate hearing was not attended by an FSB representative, a prosecutor, an appointed lawyer, or witnesses, he wrote.

The first-instance court took the information provided by the FSB on faith, unlawfully "heard a case concerning the interests of 100 million people and regarding a foreign company with capitalization exceeding $1 billion in the absence of all parties and handed down a guilty verdict," he said.

The FSB demanded that information which would provide access to correspondence between an unlimited number of Telegram users be sent over unsecure public channels to a general-use email address, which is not protected from unauthorized access, he wrote.

"This email address is the only contact given on the FSB website. The website says that the email address is a way citizens can contact the service, but it is prohibited to use it to share information designated for limited access, which the information requested by the FSB for decrypting correspondence between Telegram messenger users undoubtedly is," Chikov wrote.

The magistrate court of Moscow's Meshchansky District imposed a fine of 800,000 rubles on Telegram Messenger (London) on October 16 for its refusal to fulfill the FSB's request for information needed to decrypt user messages.