Despite Telegram’s strong image of privacy, security experts say even WhatsApp handles some privacy issues better. It is led by a founder who exiled himself rather than hand over user data.
Anti-government protesters globally use Telegram to communicate in fear of state officials. Telegram holds pride in the fact that it refuses to hand over data to officials.
“That’s why Telegram is banned by authoritarian governments such as Russia and Iran,” said Telegram boss Pavel Durov. He himself is in exile from Russia after refusing to hand over user data to state officials.
Even before you send your message, the app sends every snippet and draft of text you type to Telegram servers in real time – whether or not it is sent. The server even has access to a complete copy of all chats, according to researchers at German industry specialist website Heise Security.
There are so-called “secret chats” as a Telegram function, which are secured to prevent third parties from reading them. On its website, Telegram says if privacy security is an issue for you, you should use these secret chats with a self-destruct timer.
But these features are deactivated by default and so well hidden that most Telegram users aren’t aware of them. Secret chats are also more limited in functionality and won’t work on more than one device you own.
Even WhatsApp offers more privacy assurances with end-to-end encryption. It is however entirely possible that backdoors have been built into WhatsApp’s closed-source software.
As a secure messenger alternative with good encryption, experts recommend Signal, which is without exception an open-source software. Telegram, on the other hand, is an opaque company construct, the motives for which are virtually unknown.