Amid WhatsApp row in India, Telegram vouches for user privacy

New Delhi: As WhatsApp struggles to meet the requirements set by the Indian government over its controversial user privacy policy, its archrival Telegram on Thursday reiterated that unlike many other messaging apps, it is not dependent on a third-party platform to store its user data that leads to an additional layer of security, thus eliminating the possibilities of a back-door access.

After a battle of words over Twitter with WhatsApp last week where Telegram took a jibe by tweeting a meme that suggested it was time to “bin” WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook, the highly encrypted messaging app said that despite all this, it is growing at a very fast rate in India which is one of the key markets for the company.

“We believe that the reason for our success and significant growth is because users today have a thorough understanding of the importance of their data privacy and security – the two key differentiating aspects of Telegram as a messenger platform,” a company spokesperson told IANS.

Telegram said it is a pro-user platform that offers rich and unique features which no “other nearby competitors in this segment is currently providing”.

“User privacy is the biggest priority for Telegram, and we are committed to our principles from the day of our inception. It has been more than seven years now and we are constantly scaling up the security and building a solid framework for user data privacy on the platform,” the company informed.

WhatsApp has rolled out its privacy policy globally including in India, where it has more than 400 million users. The users will not immediately lose their accounts or face curtailed functionalities, but they will have to eventually go through limited functions if they fail to accept the new norms in the due course of time.

After persistent reminders, the users will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until they accept the updates.

According to official sources, in its fresh notice to WhatsApp, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has directed the Facebook-owned platform to withdraw its controversial user privacy policy or face action.

The Indian government has directed WhatsApp to respond to its concerns by May 25.

Noting that many Indian users depend on WhatsApp for communicating on a daily basis, the ministry said that it is irresponsible for WhatsApp to leverage its position in the Indian market to impose unfair terms and conditions.

Telegram which has wooed a significant number of new users from WhatsApp in the past couple of years in India, told IANS that it has been an open-source platform since 2013 and anyone can check its source code, protocol and API (application programming interface).

“Telegram is the only instant messaging app in the world that supports verifiable builds for both Google Play Store and Apple store. We allow experts to independently verify that our code mentioned on GitHub is exactly the same code that we have used to build our apps. Our encryption and API has been audited several times before, and we always welcome security experts to review our systems at any point of time for any feedback,” the company stressed.

All data, regardless of type, is encrypted in the same way – be it text, media or files.

“This way our users can enjoy Telegram’s unique benefits of the technologies which can’t be implemented under end-to-end encryption architecture. On Telegram, shortage of local storage never leads to data loss,” the company said, adding that third party cloud storage providers might not be end-to-end encrypted as well.

Telegram said it is fully prepared to on-board as many new users who want to join its platform without any technical hassles or bottlenecks.

“Telegram’s features are free and will always remain free for the general users in future”.

Telegram is soon going to add encrypted group video calling feature for the users followed by the screen sharing options and noise-cancellation.

It will help the users to experience a full-fledged video conferencing tool without any restrictions on the number of participants, or in terms of the storage.

“We are strictly against user data collection and sharing with any third-party platforms, or advertising companies. We will also going to introduce new paid feature for the business users who need additional resources to run larger Channel on Telegram,” the company noted.

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