Is this a privacy purge?
In its latest update to iOS, Android, and its web app, Telegram has added the ability for users to delete messages for all participants in the chats, irrespective of who sent them or when they were sent.
Up till now, Telegram had a 48-hour window in which you could delete your own sent messages, both on your device and for others. Similar to how Delete for Everyone feature works on WhatsApp. However, with this update, Telegram has also dropped that time limit.
This means, once you have this update, you can now wipe an entire chat history on your device and it will be wiped off for the user involved in the conversation as well. This is applicable for personal chats as well as group chats.
(We can already imagine online chat-fights escalating to another level due to this feature)
However, while this feature sounds very extreme, Telegram founder Pavel Durov explains that this new functionality will lend more control to users on their digital history.
“We have to admit: Despite all of our progress in encryption and privacy, we have very little actual control of our data,” he writes. “An old message you already forgot about can be taken out of context and used against you decades later. A hasty text you sent to a girlfriend in school can come to haunt you in 2030 when you decide to run for mayor.”
Yes, there are certain instances where you would like to delete certain data from all sources possible. Sometimes, deleting it just off your phone makes no sense. However, this feature has the complete potential of backfiring as well. It has the potential to completely change the meaning of conversations if someone decides to selectively delete messages from other people in a group or personal chat, for instance.
Deleting these messages leaves no notification behind like we see on WhatsApp. So, if someone secretly removes an old message, you would likely not even realise.
This also means, if someone ever feels inspired to be malicious, they could delete selective messages, and the meaning of a chat may change entirely. It will be difficult to trust Telegram chats for evidence in the future.
In addition to the chat deleting feature, Telegram has also added something called ‘anonymous forwarding’, which will allow you to restrict who can forward your messages. When this setting is enabled, your forwarded messages will no longer lead back to your account — they’ll just display an unclickable name in the “from” field. This way people you chat with will have no verifiable proof you ever sent them anything.
Ironically, the inability to verify proof of who sends what on instant messaging platforms is exactly what has WhatsApp now stuck with its fake news problem.