Telegram Basics: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: 26 April 2021
Updated: 26 April 2021

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Telegram is a messaging application with over 500 million monthly active users, being one of the 10 most downloaded apps in the world. The software can be used in many devices at the same time, with lots of features and customization options for its desktop, mobile and browser versions.

Being a direct competitor of WhatsApp, Signal and other instant messaging services, Telegram is notable for its bots, stickers and channels, which provide users with lots of options for customization and interactions.

It was founded in 2013 by Axel Neff and the brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, some of the minds behind the social network VK.

As for now, it is funded by a self-financed company divided in three parts: the parent company Telegram Group Inc, located in the British Virgin Islands; the operation company Telegram FZ-LLC, which is based in Dubai; and a legal domicile and Headquarters based in London, alongside members and servers in multiple other locations.

Besides the messaging app, the group have also launched its own cryptocurrency operation and its advertising platform connected in the same platform.

Telegram Bsics

The Basics of Telegram

Telegram is available on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows and Linux. There’s also Telegram Web, which is a browser-based version that most modern web browsers support.

And Telegram X, an alternative client for mobile users. All those versions can be logged in the same account and even sync with the Telegram cloud services at the same time. With cloud support features and smart cache delivery, the mobile versions of the app can provide a good service without requiring too much internal storage space.

To invite new users to the platform, you can send an SMS invite or a custom-generated t.me link with your personal identifications to your friends, so they can easily find you when they accept your invitation.

By default, you will be notified if any of your contacts joins Telegram, and this is one of the many features and privacy options that the platform provides the users with customization choices.

Once you accept an invitation or choose to create an account by yourself, the platform requires a cellphone number for validation through SMS. When Telegram has been installed, you can search for your phone contacts to see someone’s profile or look for someone by their usernames in the search field.

Create Telegram Account

It is possible to disclosure your phone number from other users along other privacy-related preferences. You can choose what type of information Telegram displays on behalf of your recent activities on the app, like the last seen feature, your profile picture and your custom bio.

The custom username feature is optional. If activated, it makes your username public, so anyone can find you by typing on the search function.

Telegram Privacy Features

To start a new conversation, choose the user from your contact list or type in the desired username or mobile phone to open a conversation.

Telegram Chat Window

Once the chat is open, there are lots of options beside text messages, voice messages and calls. It is possible to send items from your mobile phone gallery, which triggers an option to send images on their original size or resized ones for data limitations; send files from your device and share your real- time location with another users; send contact information from your agenda, along with many other features.

Telegram Sending Files

The access from the Web platform is independent from the mobile applications forms. This means that the user don’t have to be logged in any other devices to have access to this version of the software unlike WhatsApp, which requires the phone to be always online in order to provide the user access to the web version of the service.

For Desktop users, there is also a software for Windows, Linux and MacOS systems that plays very similarly to Telegram Web.

Telegram Web Platform

Another software version of the platform is Telegram X. This alternative client is based on the Telegram Database Library, with slicker animations, some interfaces differences and experimental features.

Although this version is considered a Beta version, it lacks from the frequency of updates the other mobile version has, being without new updates from almost a year from 2020 to 2021.

TelegramX

Telegram Features

Telegram is also known for its many features and customization options, which includes some privacy-related and even usability aspects. Here goes a list of some of these features:

End-to-end encrypted voice and video calls, in which the video can be turned on or off at any given moment. The encryption can be confirmed by a set of emojis displayed on the call screen.

Secret Chats with end-to-end encryption in which the contents or logs are not stored in the Telegram servers and are only available in the devices that the users sent or received the messages.

Synced cloud experience, since you can use Telegram on all your devices at the same time seamlessly across the application.

Cloud support in which the massages and contents can all be stored on the cloud. With the cache management options Telegram provides, you can even minimize the size of the app on your device, limiting the Telegram content stored besides the application itself.

No limit on the size of media and chats on the application. You can even send any type of files as an attachment; the only limit is that each file only goes up to 2GB.

Message cancel options, in which you can unsend a message sent to another user or group without any notifications to the receiver about it and even program messages with self-destruction content.

Open source and reproducible builds app technology, in which users can check the codes and builds used on each new version of the app.
Group chat customization, which support up to 200,000 members and include supergroup options like displaying the entire message history to new users, which can delete their own messages and receive less overall notifications and can include a lot of features like polls.

Channels with unlimited audiences, in which users can comment each post with a new thread of their own like a new group conversation that even includes group voice chat.

Customization on the user interface, with many options to the background, size, colors and display options of most of the app interface, which also includes an auto-night mode system.

Stickers in animated or image formats that can be created in groups with permanent links that can be accessed by any Telegram users.

Bots that can be easily configured through the Telegram Bot API. Telegram provides many tools for developers, which includes customizations, integrations with external services, support to the HTML5 technology and even payments. Users can interact with bots through messages and commands.

Security

Legal and data protection matters

Regarding its consumer data privacy policy, Telegram provides its users with two principles: the platform does not use their data to show ads and it works in a data minimization policy in a way that it stores only the data that the platform needs to function and provides its service for the end-user.

The legal basis for processing user data (applicable for legislations like GDPR and LGPD) are the end-user services and fraud detection. The data categories used are mostly mobile number, profile name, picture and other account data customized by the user; the user e-mail address, for users using the 2-step- verification; the messages; phone contacts; location data; and essential cookies.

On behalf of the data protection regulations, users have the following rights: to request access of all personal data stored on Telegram’s servers and the transmission of that copy to another service; to delete or amend one’s personal data; to object the processing of the user’s personal data; to correct data about the user; to complain with data protection authorities regarding the processing of the user’s personal data.

Despite having a very user-friendly Privacy Policy, Telegram’s Terms of Service is straight to the point. It mostly focus on making sure the user cannot legally use the platform to send spam, scam users, promote violence or post illegal pornographic contents to public access.

Regarding age for legal matters, users from the EU and United Kingdom must be over 16 years old to use the app.

Data sharing

Telegram provides users with 3 hypotheses of sharing one’s personal data.

These are:
a) sharing with another Telegram users, through the communication and share functions of the platform own’s end- user service, authorized by its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy documents and the user’s accordance
b) sharing between other companies from the Telegram’s group, like the parent company and another services companies
c) with authorities, although Telegram has a strict policy regarding this type of data sharing and has not yet came in terms with an court order that actually made this type of disclosure to happen.

Information Security

The platform has a commitment to protect their user data. By default, in the cloud message settings all data sent through Telegram servers is heavily encrypted and the encryption keys are stored in several other data centers in different jurisdictions.

Telegram uses MTProto 2.0 for end-to-end encryption, which is a protocol developed by Telegram although the applications for the platform are open source. There is also the option to create the secret chat, in which the contents are locally stored and can only be accessed on the mobile versions of the app.

Adgram

Adgram is a marketing platform which allows users to conduct campaigns on an big scale and provides monetization to channel owners.

The system is based in a cost-per-click or cost-per-post model, and can be targeted to specific channels based on statistics provided by Telegram catalog or public targeted based on each channel.

The payment can be taken mostly by cryptocurrencies or banking operations. The Telegram Group recently bought Buzz.im, a company that do ad monitoring in open groups.

This platform runs based on the channels, groups and bots features, in a way that through channels users can vote on posts on created media; on groups the system analyzes the content created by users and even delete advertising from other groups; the bots performs the operations based on Adgram algorithms that makes possible to users to fill forms and provide direct services for the end-users.

Another previous operation was Gram, a cryptocurrency operation led by Telegram in 2018 and shut down in 2020 after some legal disputes in US Courts.

During the initial coin offering phase, the company managed to get 1.7 billion U$ from investors to it’s subsidiary, the Telegram Open Network (TON).

Adgram

The Adgram platform works with focus on the channel owners and advertisers, being a link between those two clients. Its monetization model is based in three options for the channels:

CPP (pay per post) – users responsible for the advertising receive a payment per publication, regardless of the number of viewers or clicks.

CPM (cost per mile) – the payment is made as soon as the publication get 1000 ad impressions per group or channel.

CPC (pay per click) – the payment is based on the number of clicks the publication made.

The platform provides the clients with the following features: payments in many formats, in which the placer can choose from; the ability to edit the publications of promotional material; a bot to plan the date and time of the publications; technical support specific for the advertising operation; reports with statistics for all advertising campaigns.

Written by: Miklos Zoltan

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Founder & CEO Privacy Affairs

Miklos Zoltan is the founder and CEO of Privacy Affairs. Miklos has long-time experience in cybersecurity and data privacy having worked with international teams for more than 10 years in projects involving penetration testing, network security and cryptography.

Miklos founded Privacy Affairs in 2018 to provide cybersecurity and data privacy education to regular audiences by translating tech-heavy and "geeky" topics into easy-to-understand guides and tutorials.

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