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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Here’s why Telegram does not offer end-to-end encryption by default

Telegram: Founder Pavel Durov explains why Telegram doesn't use end-to-end encryption by default and instead offers it as an optional feature via 'Secret Chats'.

By: Tech Desk | Mumbai | Updated: January 13, 2021 10:04:51 am
Telegram founder Pavel Durov also explains how Telegram ads will work in the future. (Image Source: Reuters)

Telegram founder Pavel Durov has been very vocal about Telegram’s policies and focus on privacy since rival WhatsApp received widespread flak after its new privacy policy went public. Durov also recently slammed Facebook, criticising the company’s data mining methods.

The founder has now released a new post on his personal Telegram channel that clears the air about why the app does not feature end-to-end encrypted chats by default. All the information below can be found on Pavel Durov’s Telegram channel (@durov).

Why Telegram doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default

Telegram has a ‘Secret Chats’ feature that allows end-to-end encryption. However, this needs to be enabled, should the user want to make use of end-to-end encryption. By default, Telegram chats are not end-to-end encrypted. Durov insists that this is to allow these chats to be backed up in Telegram’s own secure cloud storage.

This lets users have access to a number of features including sending large documents and videos, instant media forwarding without re-upload, minimising storage usage on your phone, support for multiple devices and access to chat history, which is simply put, not possible with end-to-end encryption in place.

Instead, Telegram lets its users choose whether they want their chats to be backed up on the cloud and make use of features like multi-device support. Those who favour more security over these features can opt for Secret Chats, which enable end-to-end encryption for the parties involved. For the security you get, you will miss some very basic features like taking screenshots or forwarding messages.

Is Telegram bringing ads? What kinds of ads are coming to Telegram?

Telegram had recently introduced its ideas to bring ads to the platform, to help the app stay afloat and to keep Telegram running independently. However, Durov had mentioned that ads will only be coming to large channels, while one-on-one private chats and private groups will remain ad-free.

“We will never force you to view 30-second ads on Telegram. If we ever introduce ads, the ads will be shown only in large one-to-many channels, which are expensive to run due to server and traffic costs,” stated Durov in his post. “So, no collecting private data, no user profiling etc. And if you don’t use our one-to-many channels (which are non-existent in all other messaging apps), you won’t see a single ad,” he adds.

Durov recalls the FBI trying to influence him

In yet another post, Durov also speaks about an incident from May 2016, when the FBI reportedly tried to influence the founder and bribe his engineer to “make Telegram less secure”. “Luckily, since neither of us are US citizens, we could afford to refuse their offers and I was able to tell the public about these attempts. If we were American citizens, the FBI would have likely tried to silence us using a legal procedure called a “gag order”,” said Durov in the post.

A gag order is essentially a legal directive that doesn’t allow you to publicly disclose information related to an event. “That whole story made me ask myself this question: if our team experienced such pressure during just one week’s trip to America, what kind of pressure are US-based tech companies facing every day?” added Durov in the post.

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