Did Telegram hand over user data to the authorities?

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The messaging app Telegram would deliver user data to the German authorities, according to when it emerges from an investigation by Der Spiegel. But the company continues to write in its FAQ that it has not given anyone (including governments) a single byte of private information.

Telegram reportedly handed user data to authorities, but the company denies it

According to reports from Der Spiegel, Telegram would have responded positively to a series of requests from the Federal Criminal Police in Germany. The requested user data concerned information on possible acts of terrorism and suspected child abuse. Other requests, for any type of investigation that does not concern these areas, were ignored.

In the Telegram FAQ, however, it is communicated that the messaging app has shared “0 bytes of user data” with third parties, including authorities. However, in the privacy policy Telegram specifies that it will provide IP addresses and telephone numbers if a warrant arrives regarding anti-terrorism investigations.

The German government put pressure on Telegram (which is based in Dubai, officially) to investigate the activities of right-wing extremist groups, which are using the platform to coordinate their actions. However, it should be noted that in 2018, Russia had expelled the app from the country because it had not delivered information about alleged terrorist acts. In 2020, Telegram and the Kremlin have reached an agreement to bring the app back to Russia.

Balancing the demands of governments is complicated, especially because the definitions of terrorism are not the same in all countries and at all historical moments. The situation in Russia in recent months is an emblematic case. Telegram has created a channel for transparency reporting, in which ccommunicate any decisions on user data handed over to authorities. But he never posted any results.

So the commentators remain in doubt as to how much Telegram is really willing to grant to the authorities (and especially to which authorities it grants them). The company is expected to respond to the criticisms of Der Spiegel, we will keep you updated.