Telegram's peer-to-peer login feature: Here's why you should not use it

Telegram's peer-to-peer feature also lets users hide their phone numbers from strangers
An undated image shows Telegram logo. — Unsplash
An undated image shows Telegram logo. — Unsplash

Telegram unveiled a new feature which provides users a free premium membership of the app in return of some terms and conditions that has stirred a controvery among security experts and users alike.  

The app allows users to get free premium membership in return for allowing the app to access their phone number for sending one-time password (OTP) to other users who attempt to log into the app. This new feature has raised concerns about user privacy.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Gadgets360 reported that the feature is releasing in select countries for Android users. Moreover, if users let Telegram use their phone number as an OTP relay, the company will send a transferable code for Telegram Premium.

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This Peer-to-Peer Login Programme highlights that the company will send a maximum of 150 OTP messages per month. Potential users, who are likely to be charged for local and international SMS usage, will have to get a certain quota to be able to avail the free subscription.

However, there’s a major privacy concern that strangers could see and use phone numbers for scams. The app informs users to avoid involving with people who do scams to get OTP from their number but app don't have ways to enforce it.

Telegram provides access to users to hide their phone numbers from strangers, but using the number as a relay could allow them to look up user's account. The terms suggest that people participating in the programme can not make any case against the company over peer-to-peer login.

When agreeing to the terms and conditions, the statement issued to users states, “You acknowledge and agree that Telegram shall bear no liability for any costs, expenses, damages, or any other adverse or otherwise unforeseen consequences that you may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of your present or past participation in the Peer-to-Peer Login Programme.”

The users are still thinking about whether it is worth to save a few bucks by choosing a peer-to-peer login system and letting strangers use their phone numbers.