Many popular messaging apps allow you to delete messages but that functionality is largely limited to your own device. Even if you delete a message on your phone it remains visible on the recipient’s device. So a message sent years ago could come back to haunt you later on in life, complete with verifiable proof that you sent it. Telegram, a popular privacy-focused messaging app, is now allowing users to delete messages from recipients’ devices as well.
Simply put, the latest Telegram update allows users to delete messages from both ends of the conversation. The message is thus deleted from their device and the device of the person they sent it to.
“We have to admit: Despite all of our progress in encryption and privacy, we have very little actual control of our data,” Telegram creator Pavel Durov said, pointing out that “An old message you already forgot about can be taken out of context and used against you decades later. A hasty text you sent to a girlfriend in school can come haunt you in 2030 when you decide to run for mayor.”
This functionality isn’t just limited to the user’s own messages. You could delete just the other person’s messages from the conversation or of any other person in a group chat instead of your own. It doesn’t require the consent of the user whose messages are being deleted. Messages that are removed leave no trace behind, not even a placeholder to show that something was deleted. It’s as if the message was never sent in the first place. Telegram has certainly opted for the nuclear option in building this functionality.
There is some potential for abuse here as users will be able to selectively delete messages. There’s nothing stopping them from screengrabbing chats and twisting a conversation out of context. Nevertheless, Telegram is going in a completely different direction, one that not a lot of its competitors may follow it to.