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Iran has given messaging apps a year to move data on Iranian citizens to servers based in Iran as reported by CNET.

Reuters relayed the information from Iranian State News Agency IRNA on Sunday. They stated that companies operating third party messaging services (such as WhatsApp) will have one year to move all data and activity on Iranian citizens to servers within the country if they wish to continue operation.

The demand originated from Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace. Members of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace are selected by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Of particular note is messaging app Telegram. Telegram is used by 20 million people – one-quarter of Iran’s population of 80 million. The cloud-based service has gained popularity due to its security features such as end-to-end encryption. Despite this, Iranian authorities had arrested administrators of 20 separate Telegram groups for spreading “immoral content”.

Iran has strict controls on Internet usage and social media. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, are blocked by default within the country although third-party solutions exist to circumvent these blocks. The blocks are often removed and reinstated as needs dictate; the Telegraph reported that Iran had unblocked access to YouTube and Twitter in January 2016 after Europe and the United States had lifted economic sanctions. 58% of Iranians reported using Facebook in 2014 despite the block.

Quick Take

Despite the likely repeated privacy violations of the NSA and similar organizations of the Western world, the Iranian surveillance machine is a different beast entirely. Jokingly tweeting about harming an elected official would, at worst, warrant you a visit from the FBI or equivalent agency. People in Iran are regularly arrested for violating absurd, backwards standards of morality and decency. I expect that if these demands are met by these companies Iranian users will simply shift to a safer and more convenient platform to evade the surveillance as so often happens in other countries with tight Internet controls such as China.

What do you think of Iran’s demand to have servers for Iranian users relocated to Iran? Do you feel users would abandon platforms that met this request or would they switch to a different service? Let us know in the comments below!

Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!