Iran has ordered foreign messaging applications to move all their data and record of activity regarding Iranian citizens inside the country. If successful, this would result in the government gaining easy access to the contents of its citizens' private conversations.
According to Reuters, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the state-run news agency, reported on Sunday that Iran's Supreme Council of Cyberspace issued the new regulations stating that the continued service of messaging apps depended on their compliance to the new rule within a year. The Council further said that the latter was based on the guidelines and concerns of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran has a history of exercising strict controls over the extent of its citizens' access to the Internet and online platforms. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are already banned in the country. However, this has failed to deter many who, according to a BBC report, use services such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which mask the geographical position of the user, thus facilitating his/her use of banned sites.
The new restriction sought to be imposed will prove troublesome for those providing messaging services in the country. The most affected would be Telegram, an extremely popular service in Iran, which, according to a Reuters report, is used by about one fourth of the country's population of 80 million.
Telegram's attraction is mainly due to its efficient security protocols that encrypt messages, making it near impossible for others, like the government, to understand them. However, if Telegram chooses to comply with the new order issued by the government, the reason for its popularity would become non-existent. With its customers' data accessible to the State, it is doubtful if Telegram would continue to be used by Iranians.
In fact, many have already taken to social media to express their wariness with regard to the news. Many state that they would cease to use Telegram if it obeyed the regulation.