Telegram‘s encrypted messaging service has proved more popular with users than with communication-monitoring governments, so it’s no shock that the developer wants to help users bypass another longstanding government hurdle. The just-announced Passport will store digital versions of government-issued IDs in the cloud so that they can be easily shared with supported services.
On the surface, Passport isn’t controversial. You simply use Telegram’s iOS or Android app to take pictures of your driver’s license, passport, or identity card; send the pictures to Telegram; and then manually authorize each cloud-based transmission of the ID data to a recipient. The company illustrates Passport’s futuristic functionality using examples from the sci-fi film The Fifth Element, a cute touch.
For now, recipients receive the images you submit, but Telegram says it will soon add trusted third-party verification, enabling services to rely on your verified ID without receiving your personal data. Conceptually, the current offering merely eliminates the need to take and email ID photos each time they’re requested, but in addition to convenience, Telegram is touting the service’s security. The company says that it uses end-to-end encryption for your IDs and personal data and claims that it therefore has “no access” to the content of the data you’re storing on its servers.
While Passport’s functionality is useful, the key question for users will be whether to trust Telegram — or any third-party cloud provider — with such critical identification data. Identity fraud is already rampant, and…