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In Yet Another Criticism, Telegram Founder Accuses WhatsApp of Being Part of Surveillance Programmes Amid mounting pressure on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, rival Telegram's founder Parel Durov has added to his earlier criticism of the messaging service

By Debroop Roy

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After what has been a difficult few months for WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook, Parel Durov has launched another war of words against the popular messaging service for its privacy practices.

Durov, the founder of WhatsApp rival Telegram and an early advocate of digital privacy, said it was naive to think Facebook would change its policies following the acquisition of WhatsApp.

"Facebook has been part of surveillance programmes long before it acquired WhatsApp," he said in a statement on Thursday.

WhatsApp, which was bought by Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook in 2014, has several breaches in the last few months—one of them being spyware Pegasus which snooped into the phones of 1,400 users across the world. The latest reported breach can be exploited by sending a video file to a phone.

India's cyber security agency CERT has asked those using an older version of WhatsApp to update their app. The company claimed that it had no reason to believe users' data was affected.

Durov's War Against WhatsApp

Durov has been a long-standing critic of Facebook's usage of its users' data, and with the revelation about the social network's role in the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, voices against Zuckerberg and co has only grown.

In May, Durov published a statement titled "Why WhatsApp Will Never Be Secure" where he said the news of data breaches on the messaging platform didn't surprise him.

"All of their security issues are conveniently suitable for surveillance, look and work a lot like backdoors," he said in the statement, adding that everytime WhatsApp fixes a vulnerability, a new one seems to pop up.

He also said it was extremely difficult for a communication app operating in the US to be completely secure as security agencies often justify planting backdoors for anti-terror activities. "The problem is that such backdoors can also be used by criminals and authoritarian governments. No wonder dictators seem to love WhatsApp."

WhatsApp declined to comment while Facebook had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Mounting Pressure

Pressure has been mounting on WhatsApp owing to these breaches being reported, with politicians and activists becoming increasingly vocal about the need for new laws to govern data privacy of common citizens.

The European Union implemented the general data protection regulation last year while India has said it is working on its own bill of rights for online data privacy.

WhatsApp also recently received a major blow to its plans in India after the country's central bank blocked the launch of its payment services in the country citing non-compliance with data localization norms.

In his Thursday's statement, Durov said: "Regardless of the underlying intentions of WhatsApp's parent company, the advice for their end-users is the same: unless you are cool with all your photos and messages becoming public one day, you should delete WhatsApp from your phone."

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.

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