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Russia's political ban on Telegram has Apple blocking GDPR updates to infamous messenger

Russia's persistent demand that Apple shut down Telegram has a side-effect of no update to the app for GDPR compliance in the UK.

Continuing its attempts to shut down Telegram in the country, Russia's Roskomnadzor claims it sent a letter to Apple "demanding to stop the distribution of the Telegram Messenger app in the App Store, as well as sending its service push notifications to Russian users."

The letter asks Apple to inform the regulator about any possible actions the company can perform to curtail the app's usage in the country. Notably the letter also advises that this needs to be done as quickly as possible "to avoid possible actions by Roscomnadzor to disrupt the functioning of the above services," referring to the App Store itself.

"Because Apple, like other transnational companies, is a company with a high degree of red tape, we expect the reply within a month," said Roskomnadzor's director Alexander Zharov, reports Wccftech. When pressed on what could happen to Apple if it fails to comply, Zharov suggested "For now, I would not like to forecast further actions."

The demand is a continuation of efforts by the Russian government to prevent the Russian-developed service from operating, after the company behind the app declined to provide the FSB, the country's domestic spy agency, with encryption keys for the service. Pavel Durov, an executive for Telegram, previously argued "privacy is not for sale" and that "human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed over the matter.

Users in the country have been able to access Telegram by using virtual private networks, but the government is able to shut them down if access to banned services are provided. Previous efforts by Rskomnadzor to curtail its usage includes blocks placed against Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, halting communications for users who do not use VPNs or other workarounds.

In April, the regulator wrote to Apple and Google for the first time to stop distribution of the app through their respective online stores. The regulator advises it is currently in discussions with Google about the banning the app in the country, but didn't say about its current situation with Apple.

While Telegram is still available to download from the App Store in Russia, it does appear that pressure from the regulator is already affecting the app. In a notice about implementing the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Telegram states it has not been able to update the iOS app globally since mid-April, coinciding with the first regulatory request.

Apple did temporarily block Telegram from the App Store in February, citing the distribution of "inappropriate content," later confirmed to be child pornography.

Apple does have a history of pulling apps from the App Store to comply with censorship requests, as well as other privacy related changes to services, so long as they follow the country's laws. In the case of China, it has pulled VPN apps from the regional App Store, and has transferred control of Chinese iCloud data to a local company to comply with cybersecurity laws, an act which critics believe puts the data within easy reach of the government.