Telegram Android app adds controversial feature to store real-world ID documents

One of the scarier things you need to do to gain access to some apps – mostly financial ones – is to prove your identity by uploading a photo of official ID, like a driving license or passport. Most services say that the document will be deleted following verification, but it’s a process that requires a large degree of trust in the company.

This is an issue Telegram sets out to address in a new update hitting the iOS and Android apps today …

With phase one of its new Telegram Passport service, nothing much changes beyond a little convenience. Instead of uploading ID manually to a new app, you instead store an encrypted copy of your documents in Telegram’s cloud storage. When an app needs to see your ID, it would then be sent from Telegram to the app developers without the need to upload it again.

Neowin reports that phase two would eliminate that second part of the process.

Telegram wants to implement third-party verification support for Passport. This means that rather than directly sending your ID to each service, Telegram will simply verify that your account is real and log you into supported apps.

In other words, if an app developer is willing to trust Telegram’s own verification of your ID, it would not need to have sight of the document.

The big question with this, of course, is whether you’d be happy to have your ID in anyone’s cloud storage, and in Telegram’s in particular. At present, ID uploads are end-to-end encrypted, so Telegram has no access, but it’s hard to see how that could remain the case if Telegram plans to validate users.

Telegram’s reputation is mixed. On the one hand, it does have a track record of denying government demands for a copy of encryption keys even when that gets the app banned from a country. On the other hand, some security professionals are skeptical about the app’s use of its own home-grown encryption system – which cannot be independently audited – and for the fact that not all messages use end-to-end encryption.

Personally, I’ll pass, but you may feel differently. Telegram is a free download from Google Play.

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