Telegram’s privacy features: What it means for Hong Kong protesters

Telegram’s privacy features have been on the radar ever since the activists in Hong Kong began using the social networking app for coordinating the protests. 

It was in July when the cloud-based instant messaging service, Telegram, witnessed a surge in installations in Hong Kong. Soon, it was realized that the one hundred and ten thousand new users are the anti-government pro-democracy protesters from the city.

At a time when protesters are extremely cautious with concealing their identity, Telegram has added more layers to its privacy features. From introducing a privacy setting that lets users keep their mobile numbers anonymous to launch its native token Gram this October.

While Telegram will provide its two hundred million users across the world with access to Gram digital wallet, developed with keeping in mind the privacy conditions put forward by its investors, for storing the Gram tokens, the new security upgrade will help the activists to mask their identity from the government officials.

The pros of Telegram’s privacy features

In times of political unrest, where the police are trying to muzzle the voice of protesters, Telegram’s privacy features have gained traction as digital privacy becomes increasingly more challenging.

Thus, besides empowering its users with privacy protection, that does not let pro-government officials from determining a protester’s identity and preventing the protester from being busted, the new-age social networking app also allows group chats to have as many as two hundred thousand members – a perfect medium for organizing and coordinating the protests.

Moreover, the encrypted chat function gives control of the chat to the person who initiated it. He can choose to make the chat display invisible to everyone at any given time.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy crusaders view unregulated and decentralized cryptocurrencies in a similar light. Amidst the social movements for freedom and democracy, cryptocurrencies prove to be a great source of capital.

The dark side of digital privacy

However, what is more worrying is the fact that Telegram is all set to distribute its initial batch of Gram tokens next month. The decentralized cryptocurrency that will enable any Telegram user to send payment and receive payments with utmost anonymity could cause campaigners or even terrorist organizations to use it as a means of fundraising.

While on the one hand, Hong Kong government officials are doing their utmost to bring the guilty to book, on the other, governments across the world are grappling with questions regarding Telegram’s token being used as a medium to facilitate terrorism. Many argue that token could provide the capital to fund the weapons of mass destruction and the messaging app could essentially be used communication source for coordinating attacks.

Indeed, digital privacy does come at a cost. While it is one thing to safeguard the identity of the protesters, it is another to clear the way for mass terrorism. Do you think too much privacy could have serious implications? Or is there a way to link online identity with the transactions?

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