The Brief:

A secure messaging app that offers users the option to send "self-destructing" messages.

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DEEP DIVE

This messaging app takes some of the best features from other messaging apps and combines them with the “missing link” said apps seem to share: security. Along with the speed of WhatsApp and a messaging format similar to Kik, Telegram also has an advanced cryptology system, that has been lacking with other apps like Facebook Messenger.

With Telegram, users can connect from around the world and access messages from all their devices at once. In addition, there is no size limit when it comes to sharing media and files with friends, as all chat history is stored in the Telegram cloud rather than on the device itself.

As of the March 2019 update, the app has been installed more than 100 million times. It is especially popular with the crypto crowd and has become the unofficial messenger of Bitcoin and other coin enthusiasts.

Security Features

Perhaps the most unique feature about the app is the added security and privacy features. Everything on Telegram, including chats, groups, and media is encrypted using a combination of “256-bit symmetric AES encryption, 2048-bit RSA encryption, and Diffie–Hellman secure key exchange.”

In their latest update, Telegram has also offered users the use of “Secret Chats.” Secret Chat messages can be programmed to self-destruct automatically from both participating devices, much like on Snapchat. It’s a DM that disappears, if you will!

Controversy in Russia and Iran

The app’s developer, Pavel Durov, was once dubbed “Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg” for creating a popular website similar to Facebook for Russian citizens. After too many clashes with Putin’s government, Durev fled his homeland for privacy and began programming Telegram for users who wanted more security and privacy in their messaging.

In 2018, the app was banned for not following an order by Russian law enforcement to provide encryption keys to its software. Iran has also banned the app, citing concerns about encrypted messages in regards to terrorist attacks.

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Safety & Privacy

Telegram is free and according to its developer, will always be free. The app also does not provide third parties with access to users’ data or information.

Users create an account by providing their mobile number and basic account data like profile name, picture etc. To make it easier for users to reach each other, screen names and profile pictures are always public. Much like Houseparty or Squad, the app uses phone numbers as unique identifiers so that it is easy for users to switch back and forth between SMS and other messaging apps, though the app always asks for permission before syncing contacts.

Though users have the option of sending a “Secret Chat”, they should note that taking a screenshot of a message thread, private or not, is still absolutely doable. Telegram disabled screenshots by default on Android, but all it takes is a Passcode Lock to remedy that. One must set up a PIN or password for the Telegram app first on Android in order to be able to have the choice to take screenshots in Secret Chats. It’s important to remember that much of what we put online can never fully be erased.