The Facebook takeover of Whatsapp seems to have caused quite a stir. Lots of people are trying out an alternative chat app called Telegram with no links to big business - unless it happens to be a major Russian competitor to Facebook.
I decided to take it for a run but immediately noticed some strange anomalies. Telegram seems to check your contacts list and informs you when contacts join up. I am quite curious how they do that. The first message I got informed me that Irfan Skiljan had joined. So I decided to send him a message. I then got to see a mobile number (I don't have Irfan's mobile number, only an email address). But the mobile number is in Uzbekistan and I'm pretty sure Irfan is not there.
Then I was informed that "Josine" had joined. I do have one Josine in my contacts, but without a mobile number either. So this could be just any Josine who happens to have joined up. It looks to me like Telegram is very generous providing my information to total strangers - and theirs to me.
Then an acquaintance called Femke joined. My knowledge of her, her unusual name and her social media awareness made me assume it was the same person I knew. That was indeed the case. But again, Telegram immediately showed me her mobile number, which I didn't have and which isn't to be found on Google+.
I decided to do a bit of reading and discovered there do seem to be some doubts also about the security of Telegram. It keeps everything in the cloud, but how well protected is its cloud? And its encryption seems the work of amateurs. Check out this fascinating blog about encryption.
So my conclusion remains that Telegram matches potential contacts only on the basis of a name in the contact list and then blithly passes on the mobile phone number when that may not be a good idea. E.g. in the case of a policeman, doctor etc.
A Techcrunch piece about Telegram.
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