As many abandon WhatsApp amid concerns for its current privacy policy, social media law specialist Emma Sadlier has warned parents to beware of a feature on alternative texting platform Telegram.

“URGENT URGENT!!! If your child has downloaded Telegram please urgently make sure the location is turned off and that they cannot turn it back on. There is a ‘People Nearby’ feature which allows you to see nearby groups (without joining) with the most horrific pornography, etc.,” she urged parents via Twitter. “I can’t tell you what I saw within two minutes of enabling it (and I’ve seen it all). WhatsApp is infinitely preferable to this. Better the devil you know.”

How to access the location feature on your phone:

  1. Go into “settings” on your phone;
  2. Go to “privacy and location”;
  3. In “permission manager” you are allowed to turn off your location settings for each app.

Bug bounty hunter and researcher Ahmed Hassan also recently found that Telegram’s “People Nearby” feature can be used to reveal the exact location of those who have it enabled.

As reported by TechRadar, Hasan initially noticed a similar quirk in another texting app called Line, and picked it up again with Telegram. When he reported it, he was informed by the company that it was not an issue.

In a blog post,  Hassan explained how the feature’s distance model can be used to triangulate a user’s exact location. If a user has their ‘People Nearby’ activated, it can be used to see how far people are from your location. On the list of nearby people, it will tell you how far away they are from you.

This makes it possible for someone to “spoof” the exact location of anyone listed by using three points and using those to draw three triangulation circles, according to Hassan.

Upon attempting to spoof an address of a user, Hassan found he could find their exact home address.

Picture: Unsplash

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.