“Privacy is not for sale”
Last week, we were all kinda distracted by the Zuckerbourg's performance in the most memified event in tech history. But some major things went down. Telegram was banned in Russia, after the authorities requested a universal key with which to access encrypted messages. A whole lot of drama ensued.
It all started a while back. Telegram's founder, Pavel Durov, left Russia and the successful company he founded there back in 2014, when he was already being dubbed the Mark Zuckerberg of Russia (…well maybe not so much after this last month's privacy fiascos). In a 2014 interview with the New York Times, he says that Telegram was born out of a realisation that he could not communicate with his family safely, in the light of the various showdowns he had with the government, eventually leading to him leaving the country. (It's also a fab profile of a slightly mysterious, slightly quirky self described 'citizen of the world' who dresses a bit like Neo from The Matrix.)
Now Telegram's privacy-first commitment has got him back into hot water with the authorities in Russia. Telegram lost a lawsuit against the FSB (Federal Security Service) last month, contesting a 2016 antiterrorism ruling granting them backdoor access to encrypted messages. When the requests for universal keys came in again, Telegram refused on the grounds that encryption happens on an individual user level, and a universal key does not exist. The outcome – a ban on Telegram in Russia. Slightly awkward when the whole Kremlin press office use it apparently…
According to Bloomberg, the plot thickens in that Telegram was the biggest competitor to messenger apps owned by Alisher Usmanov ‘one of Russia's richest men and strong Putin loyalist’. Funnily enough, this was the guy who acquired a stake in Durov's original social network, Vkontakte, triggering him to sell his share in 2014. All getting a bit cloak and dagger for us, but we're totally here for Telegram.