Russia: Telegram restriction shows authorities “treating data protection law breaches seriously”19 April 2018
The Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (‘Roskomnadzor’) announced, on 16 April 2018, that it had been granted a decision by the Tagansky District Court of Moscow (‘the Court’), to restrict access to Telegram Messenger Limited Liability Partnership (‘Telegram’), and that it had informed telecommunication operators (‘telcos’) of the same.
Sergey Medvedev and Ilya Goryachev, Senior Lawyers at Gorodissky & Partners, told DataGuidance, “The Telegram case (‘the Case’) […] demonstrates the legal consequences of non-compliance with Article 10.1(4.1) of Federal Law of 27 July 2006 No. 149-FZ on Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information (‘the Law’). [The Case] clearly shows shows that non-compliance with data protection legislation […] may affect business operations […] in Russia, especially online, whether the company is domestic or foreign. Moreover, the Case clearly demonstrates that the Russian competent authorities, such as the Roskomnadzor and the Federal Security Services (‘FSB’), are treating data protection law breaches seriously and may prosecute respective infringers […] in court.”
The restriction of access to Telegram via telcos, had been requested by the Roskomnadzor under Article 15.4 of the Law, in response to Telegram’s failure to comply with a previous decision, which required it to provide encryption keys to the FSB. In particular, the restriction affects access to information systems, programs for electronic computers that are designed to receive, transmit, deliver and/or process electronic messages of internet users and are operated by Telegram.
Medvedev and Goryachev concluded, “It remains to be seen whether the possibility of using Virtual Private Network (‘VPN’) technologies for accessing the restricted or infringing websites and online platforms will trigger the application of the Law of 29 July 2017 on Amendments No. 276-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection (‘the VPN Law’) currently effective in Russia. According to the […] VPN Law, the owners of VPN technologies may be obliged to cooperate with the Roskomnadzor for the purposes of preventing the use of such technologies to access the restricted or infringing websites.”