Telegram, the messaging app created by Saint Petersburg native Pavel Durov, is said to be private and secure. So why does the Russian government seem to be able to read anything people share on it? At Wired, Darren Loucaides investigates.
Russians needed to consider the possibility that Telegram, the supposedly antiauthoritarian app cofounded by the mercurial Saint Petersburg native Pavel Durov, was now complying with the Kremlin’s legal requests.
Over the past year, numerous dissidents across Russia have found their Telegram accounts seemingly monitored or compromised. Hundreds have had their Telegram activity wielded against them in criminal cases. Perhaps most disturbingly, some activists have found their “secret chats”—Telegram’s purportedly ironclad, end-to-end encrypted feature—behaving strangely, in ways that suggest an unwelcome third party might be eavesdropping.
When Telegram emerged as one of the last remaining oases of information and discussion for Russians, it also became a kind of funnel for Kremlin agents. Agora’s Seleznev believes that Telegram’s API allows investigators to monitor public groups at a large scale and then zero in on potential suspects, who can subsequently be pursued into private channels by undercover agents—or perhaps via a court order to Telegram.