Messaging service Telegram launched a new crypto-oriented feature on Thursday. Telegram Passport is a “unified authorization method for services that require personal identification”. KYC for ICOs in other words, which the Russian chat platform names as one of its intended use cases for Passport. Documents will be secured by end-to-end encryption, and Telegram has promised that the service will eventually move to “a decentralized cloud”.
Telegram, led by bitcoin believer Pavel Durov, owes a significant chunk of its user base to cryptocurrency. As the preferred communications channel of tokensales, Telegram is relied upon by the crypto community on a daily basis, making its sporadic outages all the more infuriating for cryptocurrency users. Telegram Passport, its initiative for providing verification services, is a clear attempt at muscling in on the identification market that Civic and Thekey have been cornering. The service also tallies with Telegram’s plans to launch its own blockchain and to integrate a native token into its messaging app.
In a blog post announcing the initiative, Telegram revealed its first integration of the service at epayments.com where Telegram Passport users can trial its verification system. There’s also a demo page on the Telegram website where users can see how the verification service will work in practice. Verification options will include passport, driver’s license, utility bill, bank statement, and selfie: the usual methods that ICO participants will be accustomed to.
Telegram has been locked in a legal battle with the Russian authorities, whose secret service are determined to secure access to the data of domestic users – and probably that of overseas ones too. Pavel Durov’s company has doggedly resisted all such attempts, but despite this, some Telegram users will naturally be concerned about entrusting their most intimate details to the platform, even with the promise of end-to-end encryption.
The ability for ICOs to let Telegram vet crowdsale participants, and to bear the brunt of the expense and data storage responsibility, is sure to appeal. With the use of programmatic bots, it should be possible to whitelist participants who are Telegram Passport members. Aside from the perceived risk of entrusting Telegram with hordes of sensitive information, there is the certainty that a cottage industry selling verified Telegram accounts will inevitably spring up. For every problem that technology solves, it introduces another.
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