Privacy-Focused Telegram Messaging App Hits 100M Monthly Users
Launched just two and a half years ago, the privacy-focused messaging app Telegram has grown to more than 100 million monthly active users and handles over 15 billion messages a day, the company announced today. Co-founder and CEO Pavel Durov reported those numbers during a keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Durov appeared on stage during the "Mobile is Securing the Digital ID" discussion. Others taking part in the talk, led by GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O'Hara, included ARM CEO Simon Segars, Morpho chairman and CEO Anne Bouverot, and Telenor president and CEO Sigve Brekke.
Part of the discussion turned to Apple's current battle with federal authorities in the U.S. The FBI wants Apple to write new software to let investigators bypass security on an encrypted iPhone 5 used by San Bernardino, Calif. terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people in December. Despite a court order, Apple is digging in its heels and refusing to comply. When asked his opinion on the issue, Durov said he "definitely" sided with Apple CEO Tim Cook in opposing such a requirement.
Unlocking iPhone 'Extremely Dangerous'
Durov undoubtedly has a unique perspective on the Apple-FBI controversy stemming from his own professional background. Often described as "reclusive" and Russia's equivalent of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the Russian-born Durov founded a Facebook-influenced company called VKontakte in 2006.
In April 2014, Durov refused to comply with orders by Russian authorities to remove and/or hand over data about opposition politicians and protesters in Ukraine. Shortly after that, he was forced out of his role in the company and left Russia to live in exile. By then he had already created and launched the Telegram app with his brother Nikolai.
According to a report today in CIO magazine, Durov responded to O'Hara's question about Apple by saying, "There's always going to be a risk that your iPhone could be stolen and people could use the data in it against you. If we increase the risk that an iPhone could be unlocked, it's extremely dangerous."
Lobbying for Backdoors 'Makes Little Sense'
Telegram has also been at the center of disputes between security and privacy advocates. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online digital rights advocacy group, scored Telegram's secret chat feature highly in its Secure Messaging Scorecard. The EFF gave Telegram across-the-board check marks for in-transit encryption, security of past communications, proper documentation and other factors.
However, the app has also been criticized for its user privacy protections, especially after it emerged last year that Telegram was aware that some members of the terrorist organization ISIS/ISIL/Daesh had been using the app. After the November 13 terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead, the company announced that it had shut down 78 messaging channels related to the terror group.
In a January 15 update on his Twitter account, Durov said the company had banned more than 660 public ISIS channels -- an average of 5 to 10 channels per day -- based on abuse reports it had received from users. He also tweeted a message responding to news reports that the terror group had other means of communicating: "As I predicted, ISIS launched its own messaging app. Lobbying backdoors in mainstream apps makes little sense now."
Image Credit: Telegram messaging app screenshot, for iOS, via Apple iTunes.
Posted: 2016-02-25 @ 8:17am PT
Sure, if you're using WhatsApp and then switch to Telegram, you'll like it. But if you use a secure messenger like Signal or Threema, you won't.