Shortly after noon, smartphones rang in half of Germany. The reason: the news service Telegram asks users for help. In a sudden survey, the operators of the platform want to know what cooperation with the German police authorities should look like if they request data about users. Within a good hour, over a million people took part in the survey – voting is to be left open until September 5th.
The operators briefly summarize the current state of affairs. It says: "Telegram never gives information about your chats or contacts to third parties, not even to government institutions. In order to prevent terrorist groups from abusing our platform, our current data protection declaration since 2018 allows us IP addresses and telephone numbers of terrorist suspects at the government's request, supported by a court order."
However, the current regulation is apparently not considered ideal, because the operators continue to write: “We are conducting this vote to find out whether our German users support our current data protection declaration or whether they can increase the number of cases in which Telegram potentially transmits data to authorities pass on, decrease or increase. We have three options to choose from."
Users from Germany can then decide whether everything should remain as it is, or whether Telegram should either approach the police or stop communicating entirely. In order to work more closely with the police - or to end all cooperation - Telegram would change the data protection declaration after the survey and, if necessary, even adapt the data structure.
Just as exciting as the outcome of the survey is its effectiveness. As an online platform that can be reached and used in Germany, can Telegram even decide on its own whether to cooperate with the BKA, other authorities or courts? Upon request, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) asked for some time to examine the facts. An answer should therefore follow in the coming days.
Telegram also asked the stern for an opinion as to whether the platform really sees itself in a position to ignore applicable law in the event of a “no” from the user and no longer process official inquiries with a court order. Telegram did not respond to a request from Stern until it was published.
The survey also comes as a surprise because the federal authorities and Telegram had converged for the first time since the beginning of the year. At the end of January, the Federal Criminal Police Office wrote in a press release entitled "Messenger services are not a legal vacuum" that they wanted to form a task force to improve cooperation with online platforms, including explicitly Telegram. Just a month later, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser reported that direct talks were being held with Telegram and that closer cooperation was being sought. And although Telegram has not officially commented on this to date, the "Spiegel" reported in June that the first information on "data from suspects in the areas of child abuse and terrorism" had actually been sent to the BKA.
Sources: BKA, Telegram, Spiegel, Twitter