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Telegram's new location sharing feature isn't as private as you might like

An attacker could determine where you are using the right tools.

Published onJanuary 5, 2021

Generic Telegram stickers on the HONOR View 20 on a table.
  • Telegram’s “People Nearby” feature could potentially reveal your location.
  • You’d just need GPS tools and triangulation to determine where someone lives.
  • Telegram has said the functionality doesn’t need to be fixed.

Telegram is ostensibly focused on privacy, but its approach to location sharing is raising some concerns. Security-conscious user Ahmed has warned that the messaging app’s “People Nearby” feature exposes locations online in a way determined observers could find.

While Telegram’s feature only shows the distance between you and other users, it’s not hard to get more exact location data. You can use a GPS spoofing device, root your phone (again to spoof GPS) or even walk around to triangulate positions. After that, it’s just a matter of entering the coordinates in a mapping tool to get the address.

See also: The best privacy apps for Android

You’re effectively “publishing your home address online,” Ahmed said.

Telegram reportedly isn’t worried about the privacy implications. People Nearby users are “intentionally” sharing their locations, the company said, and the feature isn’t enabled by default. It’s “expected” that you could gauge the exact location under the right circumstances, the company’s security team said.

You won’t have to worry about inadvertently sharing your whereabouts as a result. Still, Telegram’s location feature could create serious privacy problems for those unaware of how it works. It could be used to harass or stalk people who only think they’re sharing relative distances. Don’t turn on People Nearby if you’re seriously concerned that someone might track you down, even if the likelihood of someone exploiting this feature isn’t particularly high.

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