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Telegram refuses to provide governments details on its users – even on terrorists

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Telegram, an instant messaging app has recently denied to handover the chat details of the ISIS module Ansar-ul-Khilafah Kerala in spite of constant and repeated queries from India’s NIA (National Investigation Agency). It is strange to note that the messaging company would deny disclosing the records of a terrorist operative.

During the trial of the module’s alleged members, it was reported that the NIA’s presiding judge, P. Krishna Kumar had asked NIA if they attempted to contact Telegram for retrieving chat data. The prosecutor, Arjun Ambalapatta then replied stating that Telegram did not respond to official communication and did not reveal any details about the users and channels.

According to New India Express, while avoiding communication and refusing to share data might come off as an unethical or a borderline illegal activity, it is however completely legal from the company’s standpoint.

The intermediary liability and OTT services have highlighted a few reasons as to why companies such as Telegram are not liable to communicate or share data with the Indian government:

1. The company, as well as its servers, are located outside India, meaning that Telegram is no longer under the jurisdiction of India. It is common to note that several tech entities have their parent companies or organizations operating from a foreign company.
2. For several services such as Telegram, there are no representatives in India for any official communication and representation of these companies.
3. The encryption keys for these chats are usually stored outside India, which again makes it nearly impossible for the company’s officials to get a grip on such encryption keys.

For tackling problems like these in the future, the country is now drafting a regulatory framework for OTT services and is also considering making amendments to the intermediary liability rules.

The country is also planning on incorporating large foreign platforms under their laws and appointing a nodal officer to coordinate with law enforcement agencies. This way, India expects to bring foreign entities under its reach to implement the laws effectively.

Over the past year, several Indian ISPs have blocked access to Telegram’s web version. Telegram has also been blocked in Russia in 2018 after the app refused to hand over encryption keys in connection with a terror attack’s investigation. Telegram is know for its commitment to privacy.

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