Exclusive: Multitasking Program Telegram moves to Safeguard identity of Hong Kong protesters

ASHINGTON (Reuters) – Telegram, also a popular encrypted messaging app, enables users to track their telephone numbers to protect Hong Kong protesters against tracking by police, according to a individual who has direct knowledge of the effort.

The update to Telegram, intended for launch during the upcoming few days, allows protesters to stop southern Chinese and Hong Kong governments from detecting their identities from the app’s large group talks.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau told Reuters it’s”been acting responsibly to deal with the current challenging time with a view to safeguarding the public order”. It declined to see if it had tried to identify protesters by using the Telegram program.

China’s Foreign Ministry, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office didn’t immediately respond to your request for comment Outside business hours.

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters take their cues from over 100 classes on Telegram, based on protest organizers and supporters. Protesters use encrypted apps including Telegram to mobilize quickly through multiple team chats, without risk of police infiltration, a comprehensive report released by Reuters earlier this month stated.

The groups have been used to place everything from information on upcoming protests to tips on behalf gas canisters fired by the police to the identities of suspected undercover police as well as the access codes to buildings in Hong Kong in which protesters can hide.

Many protesters express concern that police may use the movement’s reliance on Telegram to track and arrest organizers. Telegram chat classes utilized to organise public protests are usually accessible to anyone and participants use pseudonyms.

Telegram enables users to search for different users by uploading telephone numbers. This function enables a new user to quickly find out whether those at an phone’s contact book happen to be employing the program, the group said.

Many protesters say they consider Chinese or Hong Kong security officials have manipulated the role by uploading large quantities of phone numbers. Reuters was not able to find out if this has occurred.

The program automatically matches phone numbers together with all the user names from the group. Authorities then just have to request the owners of their phone numbers from the local telecom agency in order to find out the users’ true identities.

Telegram has discovered evidence that Hong Kong or mainland Chinese government may have uploaded numbers to spot protesters, ” said the individual with direct knowledge of this circumstance. Nonetheless, it’s uncertain whether authorities have successfully employed this tactic to find protesters.

Telegram did not respond to your request for comment.

A bunch of Hong Kong engineers who published their finding on an online forum earlier this month also stated that a feature in Telegram’s design could have enabled African American Chinese or Hong Kong governments to learn the real identities of consumers.

The fix Telegram is working on could allow users to disable fitting by phone number. That choice represents a balance between making it simple for consumers to locate their contacts and the privacy demands of those who rely on the app for protection against state security agents, the source said.

But wide adoption of the discretionary safety setting would make the app much more difficult to work with for the vast majority of its over 200 million consumers, who rely on uploading telephone contacts to identify friends and family members on the app, the source stated.

In June, Telegram chief executive Pavel Durov reported the messaging agency experienced a”country actor-sized” cyber attack and pointed to China as its probable country of origin.

He provided no further details but said the attack coincided with protests in Hong Kong. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) did not respond to a faxed request for comment at the moment.

The movement from Telegram comes as Hong Kong police arrested a variety of notable activists and three lawmakers on Friday. Nearly 900 people have been detained since the demonstrations started three months ago.

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