Telegram’s new feature gives you free Premium subscriptions, but it’s a privacy nightmare

Telegram’s new feature gives you free Premium subscriptions, but it’s a privacy nightmare

Telegram app edited

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

TL;DR

  • Telegram is reportedly giving away Telegram Premium subscriptions to some users.
  • These users have to let Telegram use their phone number to send one-time PINs via SMS.
  • Participants need to pay any carrier fees, while the program exposes the phone numbers of all parties involved.

Telegram is probably the most popular alternative to WhatsApp, often bringing innovative features to the table before WhatsApp. Now, it looks like the company is giving away Telegram Premium to a few users, but this initiative has plenty of downsides.

The company has launched a so-called Peer-To-Peer Login Program (P2PL) on Android, according to the Telegram Info English channel and the firm’s updated terms of service. This program sees Telegram using your phone number as a relay to send one-time PINs (OTPs) to fellow users via SMS so they can log in to the messaging app.

Telegram says it’ll use your phone number to send a maximum of 150 OTPs via SMS each month. Unfortunately, you’ll be responsible for all SMS costs incurred as part of this program, including international texting costs if the recipient isn’t local. At least there seems to be a toggle so you can opt out of sending OTP texts to international numbers.

Telegram P2P login: It gets worse

If the fact that you’re responsible for all carrier fees isn’t enough, the messaging platform adds that recipients can see your phone number and you can see the recipients’ numbers. That’s a privacy nightmare, right there.

Telegram’s terms of service for the feature note that it won’t be liable for any harassment or harm by users who gain your phone number through the P2PL.

Would you take part in Telegram’s peer-to-peer login system?

98 votes

“Conversely, you agree not to contact any OTP recipients outside the scope of your involvement in P2PL. You agree not to send any messages beyond the automated SMS codes generated by your Telegram App, even if the recipient replies to you,” reads an excerpt of the terms.

So why would you want to participate in this program when it’s a serious privacy risk? Well, the company is offering a gift code for a monthly Telegram Premium subscription if participants hit a minimum quota of OTPs sent. This $4.99/month subscription offers a few perks, such as file uploads of up to 4GB, faster downloads, voice/video message transcriptions, premium stickers/icons, and more.

We’re glad to see a service offering users a way to gain access to a premium subscription, but it seems like the reward doesn’t outweigh the very serious downsides in this case.

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