Iran is demanding messaging apps from other countries store some user data within its borders. Announced on Sunday, Iran has ordered social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as messaging services, to transfer data held about Iranian users to servers located within the country itself, something which could lead to less privacy for the country's citizens as well as the potential of more control over online access by the government.
According to an announcement from the Iran's Supreme Council of Cyberspace received
, "Foreign messaging companies active in the country are required to transfer all data and activity linked to Iranian citizens in the country in order to ensure their continued activity." Affected services have one year to comply with the order, or face being blocked by the country's regulator.
Storing the data in the country is likely to be a security issue for citizens, due to the government's need to control what people can see online. Secure messaging apps such as Telegram could become less secure after the move, with it being potentially easier for the government to gain access to stored data, to shut down dissenting views. Outside of the apps, citizens are also using virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass government blocks to sites online and hide their browsing from any government monitoring.
Iran already has a track record of censorious actions, with authorities arresting administrators of more than 20 Telegram groups in November, for spreading "immoral content." In recent years, the country's government has attacked WhatsApp
over the Jewish background of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and blocked access
to Google, Gmail, and other similar services in 2012 over a YouTube video deemed blasphemous by religious leaders.