Why Telegram Isn’t As Safe As People Think

In 2021, Whatsapp announced substantial changes to its privacy policy – they would now be feeding your private information via the app to its parent company, Meta. This brought on an onslaught of criticism by their users as well as in the cybersecurity world. As a result, Whatsapp’s competitors saw a dramatic increase in their users, and Telegram was one to which many turned.


But the question is, did anyone stop and investigate whether Telegram really is the best secure alternative? 


Telegram has been around since 2013 but only recently has it become a major player in the private messaging ring. This is arguably largely due to their “unique” app features, which include: using the app on multiple devices, allowing for end-to-end-encryption on their “secret chats”, hosting a Bot API that allows independent developers to create their own app bots and allowing an astounding capacity of 200,000 users on a single group chat.


But let’s take a closer look at Telegram’s end-to-end encryption…. Only messages sent with their “secret chat’ feature are covered by end-to-end encryption, and encryption isn’t turned on by default anywhere on the app. This means that everything you share on Telegram is fair game for hackers, authorities or anyone else wanting to have a peek at what you send and receive. 


“Actual privacy tech is not about trusting someone else with your data. It’s about not having to. A message you send should only be visible to you and the recipient. A group’s details should only be visible to the other members. Looking up your contacts should not reveal them to anyone else.” says Moxie Marlinspike, founder of Signal, on the Telegram encryption debacle – and we agree.


Additionally, Telegram stores all its users’ data. This means that even if you had to uninstall the app and reinstall it, your chat history, contacts, images etc. will all be right back on there as if you had never left. Users need only head to the ‘Data Linked To You’ section on the Telegram App Store product page to find out exactly what data they collect i.e: Purchases, location, contacts, identifiers, financial information, contact information and user content. 


Telegram’s “secret chat” feature is built the same way as Facebook Messengers. In fact, both these apps are very similar. But we don’t go around calling Facebook Messenger a “secure private messenger”. So why the different spin on Telegram? 


All of the above is especially worrying for those affected by the war in Ukraine, as many of them have turned to Telegram, entrusting the app to keep their communications safe from prying eyes. The sudden surge in Ukrainian Telegram users was sparked after president Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent out a message to his Telegram group, urging fellow Ukrainians to resist the Russian attack. 


Now, we can see why this seemed like a reasonable move on Zelenskyy’s part considering he thought that it would be the fastest and safest way to get the message out there – however, given that Telegram was created by Russian founder Pavel Durov, we and many others in the cybersecurity field cannot help but feel this is a cause for concern. 


It’s interesting to note that Telegram has also become the most popular messaging app in Russia, surpassing Whatsapp’s user usage by 31%. And what makes this fact even crazier is that the Russian government moved to ban Telegram in April 2018 due to Durov’s issues with the way their users’ private information would be used and the authorities demanding that Telegram hand over certain information for it to be included on a government list of information distributors. Yikes!


Word on the street is that Telegram came to an agreement with the Russian government around June 2020, indicating that the platform would be assisting the Kremlin in counterterrorism efforts. This deal not only lifted the ban on Telegram in Russia but also skyrocketed the platform to become the number one info sharing app for media outlets, too.


We are in no way trying to say that Telegram is a bad messaging app, but we would like to broaden the conversation on what exactly qualifies a private messaging app to actually call itself that. What are their justifications and do they hold up? These are questions that must be asked if we want to move forward and get to a place where users can feel comforted knowing that what they send and receive is safe from prying eyes.


We at YEO strongly believe that all your personal data – including your chats, images and files should be encrypted so that not even we can see it. Which is exactly why we have safeguarded our users in this way. If you had to delete your YEO app now and reinstall it, all of your data, chat histories, images and files would be lost. Some might say it’s an inconvenience, but those that truly care for their privacy would say that this is the only way to protect your private information from getting into the wrong hands.


Unlike Telegram or any secure messaging platforms for that matter, we are the only one that cares about privacy after the user has hit send (so when it’s on your device) and we are proud to say we are the only app that delivers to a human being and not just a device. We also verify each of our users using patented continuous facial authentication (YEO mode), we have a Burn-After-Reading feature that allows you to set a specific amount of time a message can be viewed, and we have the option to Geofence messages so that can only be accessed in a specific location. 


We take your privacy as seriously as you do and are continuously working on ways to improve our privacy and security practices.


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