In April, the Russian government banned secure messaging app Telegram and this month asked Apple to remove it from the iOS App Store completely in the country, citing the potential for terrorist communication via the app since Telegram refused to allow Russia to read user messages. As this unfolds, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov posted an update for users early this morning in an effort to explain why some features "don't work correctly under iOS 11.4" (via ArsTechnica).
According to Durov, Apple has been "preventing" the Telegram iOS app from updating on a global scale, dating back to when Russia banned the app in April. Durov says that his company chose to do the "only possible thing" and refused to provide Russia with decryption keys to access user messages, "preserving the right of our users privacy in a troubled country."
He continued by stating, "Unfortunately, Apple didn't side with us." The CEO says Apple's restricting of Telegram dates back to mid-April and while Russia represents a small subset of its user base (7 percent), Apple's actions affect all Telegram users around the world. Because of this, the launch of iOS 11.4 on Tuesday has broken some Telegram features like stickers, and caused the company to miss its deadline for compliance with the GDPR for users in the European Union.
Apple has been preventing Telegram from updating its iOS apps globally ever since the Russian authorities ordered Apple to remove Telegram from the App Store. Russia banned Telegram on its territory in April because we refused to provide decryption keys for all our users’ communications to Russia’s security agencies. We believe we did the only possible thing, preserving the right of our users to privacy in a troubled country.
Unfortunately, Apple didn’t side with us. While Russia makes up only 7% of Telegram’s userbase, Apple is restricting updates for all Telegram users around the world since mid-April. As a result, we’ve also been unable to fully comply with GDPR for our EU-users by the deadline of May 25, 2018. We are continuing our efforts to resolve the situation and will keep you updated.
By missing the deadline, Telegram users in Europe won't have the same level of security and privacy in comparison to compliant apps, and a lack of updates could put the platform at a higher risk of vulnerability. Apple has yet to comment on the issue or explain its stance, but Durov hopes to "resolve the situation" soon as the company continues its efforts to get the iOS app up to date for all users.
This is far from the first time Telegram has been in hot water with both Apple and Russia. Earlier in February, Apple pulled Telegram from the App Store due to reports of "inappropriate content" being hosted on the messaging service, but it made a return a few hours after disappearing, once Telegram put additional protections in place.
For Russia, the government previously threatened a ban on Telegram last summer after repeated efforts to obtain more information about the company were ignored. While seemingly innocuous, Russia's request for a "form with information" on Telegram would effectively add the company to the state regulators' registry, further requiring Telegram to retain users' chats and to share encryption keys with Russian authorities if asked. Similar requests date back to 2014.
As of writing, Telegram Messenger for iOS was last updated on March 24, 2018.
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