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Telegram Founder Says Crypto-Like Communication Devices Could Thwart Government Spying

Harvey Hunter
Last updated: | 2 min read
A magnifying glass hovering over a phone.

Pavel Durov, founder of the encrypted instant messaging app Telegram, believes that growing government surveillance will drive innovation in secure communication, modeled on cryptocurrency hardware wallets.

During an interview with Tucker Carlson, Durov expressed concern about government pressure on digital communication platforms such as Telegram, saying he prefers to “avoid big geopolitical powers” like China or Russia to maintain their neutrality.

“The world is becoming less amenable. Governments are becoming less tolerant of privacy. And that’s clearly the trend because they have more technological power.” Tucker Carlson Added.

Durov has grown more aware of this due to his influential role as the founder, and he now says, “I assume the devices I use are compromised.”

An outlook that was spurred by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which attempted to bribe Telegram developers to install backdoors for surveillance purposes, according to Durov. Something that left him with “very little faith in the security of US platforms.”

But Durov is optimistic and believes increased oversight will compel innovations in hardware devices built for secure communications “much like how we have hardware wallets to store your cryptocurrency.”

In Traditional banking, transactions between two account holders would be carried out and recorded in a ledger maintained by the bank. This differs from Crypto Wallets which use blockchain technology to record and maintain balances of tokens associated with addresses.

This removes any intermediaries by decentralizing the process, preventing oversight. If the technology is adapted, it could be applied to communications, removing the need for intermediaries like Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which facilitate government spying.

Telegram Founder: We Can Protect Our Privacy


Durov cited the United Arab Emirates as a haven for entrepreneurs fighting for privacy and anti-surveillance due to their geopolitical neutrality. 

”It’s not aligned geopolitically with any of the big superpowers. And I think it’s the best place for a neutral platform like ours to be in if we want to make sure we can defend our users’ privacy and freedom of speech.”

To the same effect, Durov emphasized the importance of maintaining complete control of Telegram by avoiding venture capital investment.

He revealed that he holds “a few hundred million dollars” in fiat and Bitcoin, which allow him to independently find ventures while maintaining 100% ownership.

He has, nevertheless, previously raised money for several ventures, one of which was a cryptocurrency project.

Edward Snowden, an American whistle-blower, shared Durov’s concerns about government monitoring. In a tweet on April 15, he highlighted the rising influence of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) over our privacy.

Snowden’s “red alert” comes after a thread by Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, pointed out an “innocuous change” to the definition of “electronic communications surveillance provider” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) 702 bill.

This could “transform your whole company into a spy machine—whether you like it or not,” according to Snowden. Essentially, allowing the US government to go well beyond its existing scope and intervene in any internet-related service to aid the NSA in spying.

Given these intrusions, there is now, more than ever, a need for privacy. Blockchain technology can serve this purpose.