Iran Orders Parking Social Media User Data On Internal Servers

By Peter R - 01 Jun '16 08:45AM

Prompting security and privacy concerns, Iran's government has ordered that all user data of Iranians should be transferred to servers within the country.

According to Reuters, Iran's Supreme Council of Cyberspace said new regulations where in line with concerns of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamnei. Social media and messaging companies have one year to comply. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are already blocked in Iran but many continue to use from behind VPNs. Telegram is highly popular in the country and estimated to have around 20 million users.

"Foreign messaging companies active in the country are required to transfer all data and activity linked to Iranian citizens into the country in order to ensure their continued activity," state news agency IRNA quoted the Council's guidelines.

News of new guidelines has sent concerns among Iranians. Some have voiced discontent while others alleged the move aims to bring more Iranians under surveillance and curb down on freedom of expression. The state's agencies have maintained that the move is aimed to at curbing immoral activity perpetuated through the social media and messaging apps.

"This isn't about data protection or anything, this is about spying on the users. The answer is that a copy of the data would be in both countries, allowing the governments to read it all and making them happy," reads a user comment.

Telegram has gained popularity in countries with internet restrictions like Iran. Given its end-to-end encryption facilities, only users can see messages as data is completely encrypted on the servers. Whatsapp has also evolved a similar mechanism for all its messaging. End-to-end encryption facilities make it impossible for external agencies including government to read messages. So the move to park data on internal servers may not serve the intended need, argued some security analysts.

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