Messenger service Threema defends itself against a fine in Russia


In Moscow, a court has imposed a fine of 800,000 rubles (14,200 euros) on the Swiss messenger service Threema. The company confirmed a report by the Russian state news service Russian Legal Information Agency. Accordingly, Threema in Russia is said to have failed to comply with regulations for messenger services that are part of the anti-terror package that came into force in 2018.

The law enables the state to exercise greater control over its citizens and obliges telecommunications companies, among other things, to store telephone calls, e-mails and chats for six months, and connection data for even three years. ISPs must store content for a year.

According to the legislation, messengers must be able to identify users by their telephone number and pass on data to the domestic secret service FSB. “Of course, under no circumstances will we deliver any data to the Russian authorities,” said Threema boss Martin Blatter WELT AM SONNTAG.

Especially in totalitarian states, where freedom of expression is restricted and minorities are persecuted, a protected communication channel is not only a valuable asset for protecting privacy, but also a key tool for the opposition.

So far, the company has not been asked to transfer user data in Russia. “The Russian authority Roskomnadzor apparently launched an investigation in March 2022, probably to set an example,” said a Threema spokesman. There are three letters from Russian authorities that have been sent to a general Threema email address in the past.

The company took note of them. “We have no intention of accepting or even paying the fine,” Threema said.

Messenger users can register largely anonymously and do not have to provide their telephone number or their e-mail address. The provider is based in Switzerland.

“We are obliged to comply with local laws,” said the spokesman. These do not allow personal data to be passed on to third countries, especially not to countries at war, and if the persons concerned have to face potential danger to life and limb in this country.

Russian courts have repeatedly imposed fines on foreign tech companies in recent years. A few days ago, the Google parent company Alphabet was fined 15 million rubles.