On the face of it, getting a free premium Telegram subscription direct from the company seems like a pretty sweet deal, giving you access to features like transcribing voice messages into texts. But the price of this particular free deal is way too high …

Computing student AssembleDebug spotted the offer, which has so far been made available to a small number of users in a handful of countries. He posted screengrabs, with the wry comment “What could go wrong?”

So what’s the deal? Telegram uses SMS to text one-time passwords to users who login with two-factor authentication enabled. These texts cost the company money, so they want to use your cellphone to relay the codes.

By opting in to relay up to 150 texts per month, you’ll be rewarded with a free premium subscription for that month, saving you the usual $5 fee.

Aside from the obviously sketchy notion of using random mobile accounts to relay sensitive data, and the fact that some carrier plans charge you for texts, The Verge notes the biggest problem: your phone number is visible to recipients.

Once an OTP has been sent from your number, the recipient might just text you back. People participating in the P2PL program are told not to text the recipients of OTPs, even if they texted first — but there’s no way for Telegram to enforce that, no way to restrict people from replying to the OTP text. This seems like a particularly bad place to employ the honor system.

You are making your phone number available to up to 150 randoms each month. What, indeed, could go wrong?

If that decision does lead to harassment or other issues, Telegram makes it clear that’s your problem, not theirs. As AssembleDebug points out, the terms and conditions state that you have “considered any and all potential repercussions this may entail, and you have taken the necessary precautions to mitigate them as you see fit. Accordingly, you understand and agree that Telegram will not be liable for any inconvenience, harassment or harm resulting from unwanted, unauthorized or illegal actions undertaken by users who became aware of your phone number through P2PL.”

So yeah, don’t do that.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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