The Iranian Supreme Council of Cyberspace has given non-Iranian companies one year to store all of its citizens data locally, based on the "guidelines and concerns of the supreme leader." The exact text is that: "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." The new regulations were delivered by the Iranian state news agency, IRNA. The announcement, which happened over the weekend, has caused something of a backlash with many comments about of privacy and security appearing on social media – this local data will presumably be available for inspection. Iran has some of the strictest control over the Internet of countries around the world and blocks access to many social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, although many users are able to access these websites through VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections.
One instant messaging application that is at potential risk of the new regulations is Telegram, where it is estimated that one quarter of Iran's eighty million population use the messaging application. Telegram's cloud based, secure messaging platform is seen as the main reason why it has become a very popular platform although this does not mean immunity: at the end of 2015, Iranian authorities arrested the administrators of around twenty Telegram groups for "spreading immoral content," part of a clampdown on the population's freedom of expression. Twitter saw a number of angry responses such as: "Telegram's data centres are to be moved inside the country so they can delete what they want and arrest who they want," and also "I would stop using #Telegram if the servers are moved inside the country because it would not be safe anymore."
It remains to be seen how Telegram, and other social platforms, will react to this news. Will they move local data to local data centres on Iranian soil? With Telegram being a cloud based system, the concept of locating user data in a particular geographical site may not be considered realistic and it is possible that Telegram will be a much harder messaging service to access by the middle of 2017.