A telegram review in terms of privacy and software freedom

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I am a member!

Joined: 10/20/2020

Although my main communication method was and still is xmpp, I read a rather critical article about telegram in the Financial Times[1] and I felt that it is time to give it a try.

Being in trisquel's repos, means that the client is free software, although that is not the case with telegram's server [2].

The first bad experience came immediately, when at first launch the only way to create an account it, is by providing a mobile phone number.

Sharing my phone number with a software company is something I almost never do, but after much consideration I gave it a try.

And then, I had another bad experience. Instead of receiving an sms with an activation code in order to create an account, I received a message that the code was send to another device. As my computer was my only device that had telegram installed, I couldn’t receive such a code. Then I tried the following:
- Install telegram in my replicant device (both using f-droid and the apk from telegram’s official website)
- Install telegram client in another laptop
- Create a virtual machine with android x86 and install telegram using google play store (which was tricky because as I distrust Google, I needed to create a google account using a temporary e-mail address on tor network ).

All the above failed. I couldn’t create an account because I was getting the same message, that the code was send to another device.

I found somewhere [3] that the only way to create an account in telegram is by using an android phone with google app store. As I do not have such a device, I asked a colleague to install telegram on her device. During activation she entered my phone number and that is how I got an sms to create an account so I could finally use telegram in my computer.

To summarize, in order to use telegram you must provide the company with your mobile phone number, have a google account and download it using google play store. That means that in order to use it, you are forced to provide personal information AND use non-free software. All that to use a centralized server which we really don’t have any knowledge of whether it track it’s users or not. I believe that all this makes telegram status as free software really questionable.

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/c70ef7d6-230a-4404-b854-2e75fe0f2e0a
Completely irrelevant: there is an Icecat/Abrowser/Firefox addon called bypass paywalls clean (d)
[2] https://directory.fsf.org/wiki/Talk:Telegram
[3] https://github.com/telegramdesktop/tdesktop/issues/26626


I am a member!

Joined: 06/19/2015

Yeah, stick to XMPP. Use Snikket. This is the way to chatter freedom! I've been using XMPP for years and Snikket for a year or more; it's solid and lets me get my family on board.

Jorah Dawson
Joined: 12/13/2020
Joined: 07/17/2013

What options do we have for selectively block unwanted connections in Trisquel? I have GUFW blocking incoming connections, and allowing outgoing. But I can't do what I do in Android "this app connects to the internet, this other app doesn't". Or even how to block certain domains (like google for example).


I am a translator!

Joined: 08/18/2020

I can't do what I do in Android "this app connects to the internet, this other app doesn't".

I never tried it myself but firetools/firejail might be a solution for that.

Joined: 07/17/2013

Funny, I use firejail in some apps and was totally forgetting that ahah. It's not as easy to use as a proper firewall interface I guess, but yeah it's usable for that purpose.

Jorah Dawson
Joined: 12/13/2020

For that purpose you could try OpenSnitch:
Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, I never was able to run it on Parabola.

On the other hand, you may use flatpak+flatseal+hosts file. This is my current approach.
As for Google hosts, have a look at nickspaargaren project:

Joined: 07/17/2023

Sounds typical of modern internet technologies to make claims of freedom but require the use of big-tech company garbage. :P
I've never understood why anyone would use telegram. I've seen it on tor/dark web, usually for nefarious purposes, (which is hilarious as it requires a traceable google account AND a phone number, lmfao) and now seeing it more mainstream.

Afaik, it was made by the russian equivalent of facebook and as OP stated it requires google play, google account, phone number and an untrustworthy centralized server.

Sad that the standard is to make people go through so much crap just to install an app and make an account.