Millions of users have switched from Telegram to Whatsapp in search of better privacy standards, but is this app really more secure?
Last January Telegram overtook WhatsApp in the number of downloads, following the announcement of a change. In fact, starting from May 15, some privacy policies of the latter will undergo an evolution.
At this point, it is necessary to analyze the strengths and criticalities related to Telegram’s privacy. The aim is to understand if this instant messaging app really offers better privacy or if many users are moving just to follow the trend of the moment.
In particular, Telegram does not use end-to-end encryption by default, but only for some of the required features. Telegram owner Pavel Durov believes this is a distinguishing feature of his app, but actually a study shows that this feature only serves to confuse users.
Telegram overtakes WhatsApp
Following this announcement, other instant messaging platforms – in particular Telegram and Signal – have undergone a strong boom in this 2021. In fact, last January, Telegram ranked first in the ranking of (non-game) apps. most downloaded in the world. This position was occupied until December with a good margin of advantage from WhatsApp, which has now even slipped to fifth place in the general classification.
By contrast, Telegram recorded over 63 million installs, with downloads peaking in India and Indonesia – 24% and 10% of the total, respectively. According to Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, the app registered 25 million new users in a period of just 72 hours earlier this year. The owner also said: “We could witness the greatest digital migration in history”.
But what are the characteristics that distinguish Telegram from WhatsApp? Is this overtaking really justified by a higher level of privacy on the part of the blue-colored app or is it all due to the announcement of WhatsApp?
1 advantages of Telegram
Telegram, as we have said, and from using a fixed preferred from January 2021 through WhatsApp in the month of the continuity offered in terms of privacy, compared to the change that will characterize WhatsApp. In detail, the app owned by Pavel Durov offers two Features that most distinguish it from the gods messaging app gods Facebook.
In the first place, chats self-destruct. Send messages this function allows, once displayed, the one sending out of the recipient activate self-destructing devices out of the disappear from, without leaving any trace.
Secondly, Telegram also offers crowded channels. A retrenchment of the midst of the sound of the consideration of the god “to the only one of output of communication means”: it means what, unlike a simple, chat, content alone, the owner can publish messages and to his indoor. Users who participate in trough, in fact, can simply limit themselves to viewing messages and sharing them. During this motion, I link gods Telegram defined the tone of the proper sense of a single channel from broadcasting the gods. Finally, Telegram offers numerous other advantages, including:
- It is a 100% free and ad-free app.
- Telegram is fun, a feature obtained through powerful photo and video editing tools, so as to cater for all your expressiveness needs.
- Offers the ability to create group chats for up to 200,000 people.
- It allows you to share both large videos and documents of any type.
- Combine safety with ease of use.
- It offers real-time synchronization. Telegram allows, in fact, to access messages from all devices at once. With this app, you can start writing on your phone and finish the message on your tablet or computer. This is one of the favorite features of users, but which, at the same time, exposes them to more privacy problems.
The critical issues of Telegram
Considering all the strengths of Telegram, now it is also appropriate to analyze the critical issues concerning the much-vaunted privacy.
The first substantial difference with all the other big names in instant messaging – such as WhatsApp, Signal or Facebook Messenger – is that Telegram does not offer end-to-end encryption by default. This type of encryption ensures that only the parties included in the communication, i.e., the sender and recipient, can read the messages exchanged. Through this protection, you are essentially sure that not even the messaging app reads the messages. Here this function on Telegram is only an option.
To enable end-to-end encryption on Telegram, you need to make the chats secret. This option, however, can only be activated for one chat at a time, so it will be necessary to repeat the operation for each chat we use.
In addition, messages exchanged in group chats on Telegram are not protected by end-to-end encryption. It is offered by Telegram only for secret chats, calls and video calls.
How does normal encryption on Telegram work? The app claims to use two types of encryption for content sent on its platform: cloud-based and, as mentioned, end-to-end.
Groups, channels, and chats all use cloud encryption, while only secret chats, calls, and video calls make use of end-to-end encryption.
Cloud encryption allows the company to show and synchronize messages on different devices in real time. This is the feature that is particularly popular with users, but it seems to show privacy issues. The messages sent, in fact, are saved on servers and the company itself says that messages in chats with cloud encryption are “theoretically” accessible.
These messages are saved in different data centers around the world and are controlled by different legal entities in different jurisdictions. Furthermore, Telegram adds that the engineers of a data center, as well as those who could physically introduce themselves in these places, cannot in any way have access to the data that is saved on those servers.
In general, however, cloud encryption does not protect privacy as much as end-to-end encryption. In the latter, messages are encrypted by the sender’s device and decrypted by the recipients. In cloud encryption, on the other hand, there is also the intermediation of the server in the encryption process.
Privacy: one of the features
Pavel Durov explained that Telegram does not use end-to-end encryption by default because it is a “feature-rich” app. The owner of the Dubai-based app wrote on his social network:
“Signal represents one of Telegram’s features, namely secret chats. If you think you need a separate app just for that functionality, then installing it might make sense for you. ”
In fact, Durov believes that most people want more features than having a greater level of privacy offered only by end-to-end encryption. It also stated that it could not encrypt Telegram, either by entering end-to-end encryption by default or by removing one of the other functions, such as channels.
However, research from University College London has shown that Telegram’s many features rather than promoting variety of choices, the different options available have the potential to be confusing for users.
Having two different features can in fact confuse and lead to errors in sending messages as the level of protection ensured by each function could be misjudged.
The unique combination of private messages and social networks offered by Telegram has attracted certain types of users. Unfortunately, some users are extremists.
The messaging app has had problems with terrorists who have used it in the past. Telegram was the online propaganda tool for ISIS, although the company has fought against this use over the years.
Meanwhile, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have continued to proliferate on the platform, using it as a means of recruiting. Furthermore, Telegram also has a huge problem related to revenge porn, as millions of users freely share non-consensual pornographic images on this app.
In the past, the app has removed some public channels and more recently removed neo-Nazis and white supremacists who spread hate.
The problems related to the social network that is so famous for its privacy are therefore evident. This app manages to protect chats between terrorists, as well as those where content related to sexual abuse is sent, but it cannot guarantee that chats between users are not reserved only for the sender and recipient.
It is therefore legitimate to ask whether the passage of millions of users from WhatsApp to this social network is only due to the announcement of the privacy changes by the Facebook app. Many users are following this “fashion” of switching to Telegram, without even knowing how their privacy is protected on this social network.