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Telegram is auctioning the usernames of thousands of companies and NGOs without notifying them

Technology companies have entered a phase of belt-tightening and profit maximization. Since the pandemic has brought mass layoffs, the intention to charge services that previously had no economic value or imaginative strategies to find new uses for their platforms. The latter is a tactic that both WhatsApp and Telegram follow, albeit from a different perspective: while the former wants to become a sales and customer service platform for companies, the latter has chosen to monetize mass communication channels.

Telegram wants to help build communities where a user or brand can connect with thousands of people more directly than on other social networks. In these channels, it allows the insertion of advertising, personalized emoticons and other “premium” services, for which it pays a fee. As part of this strategy, it has created an auction platform in which users who have control over catchy names for these topics, such as @noticias, @pizza or @futbol, ​​can auction them to the highest bidder in exchange for cryptocurrency.

“Lifelong Telegram users who used the short usernames they signed up for in the first place can now benefit from the growth of the platform by selling them in fair, transparent and fully decentralized auctions,” defends the company, which launched trading platform last week “For the first time in the history of social networks, people have full ownership of their usernames,” he defends. The platform takes 5% of each transaction.

The company will also allow users to collect as many @users as they want and even hide ownership. This will allow them to appear in searches on the platform when entering those terms, as well as have a URL that goes directly to your channel based on that name (t.me/user). Problem? Telegram is auctioning off the brand names of thousands of companies and NGOs without informing their owners, which could lead to violations of their rights and security risks, several experts explained to elDiario.es.

Usernames on Telegram likes @movistar, @Red Cross, @iberdrola, @helpinaction, @bbva, @Santander Bank, @caixabank Or even those that refer to institutions such as @gobiernoespana or @acnur Open for auction. others such as @Coke or @Manzana They have already been sold for 32,000 and 13,000 euros. Auction for @nike It ends this Thursday and the top price is already €600,000, which is very similar @goli. from @ikea It has about 26 hours left and is going for €16,000.

“No, there was no record of that,” Movistar sources answered when asked about the Telegram auction. “We didn’t have any news,” they answered this media from “Iberdrola”. “We didn’t know anything and they didn’t even contact us,” the Red Cross agreed.

elDiario.es also contacted Telegram to ask how it plans to ensure that these usernames do not fall into the hands of malicious actors who can use them to steal identities. Also, if you have notified any company, NGO or institution that your brand name will be auctioned internationally. The platform confirmed the adoption this Wednesday, but did not respond to the closing of this information.

Legal issues

Telegram is on track to complete its first decade of life and has 700 million users who connect at least once a month, according to its official figures. It is one of the top five most downloaded apps in the world. However, with the idea of ​​auctioning usernames out of control, “he made a big mistake. It’s terribly inconvenient and can cause a lot of damage, it’s very easy to win in court,” protests the network manager of one of the companies whose brand name is being auctioned.

Carlos Sánchez Almeida, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property and freedom of expression, agrees. “It reminds me of the cyber squats of the early 2000s, when people would register web domains with company names and try to squeeze money out of brands using the fact that there was very little regulation on the internet. “Some were at pains to avoid problems, but since then there have been a number of court orders stating that only their owners have the right to register brands,” he explains.

“Jurisprudence says you can’t register domains to speculate on brand names. In my opinion, this is the same case. In addition, now the user of social networks can be more important than the domain name, because they have more traffic”, continues the lawyer, a lawyer with a lot of experience in the field of technological law in the Spanish context. “The only exception is when the brand name refers to something generic,” he notes.

Imitation

In addition to the legal issues stemming from Telegram making money from auctioning off brand names it doesn’t own, getting those names into the hands of those willing to pay for them poses huge security risks to users. Digital identity theft is one of the most common scams in the digital environment. Customers of banks and energy companies are regularly affected by them. Cybercriminals can defraud a single victim of tens of thousands of euros.

“If they don’t do some kind of verification about the authenticity of whoever buys it, obviously it can lead to difficult situations,” says Lorenzo Martínez, cyber security specialist and head of Securízame. “Even before the serious problems of discrediting the brand,” he emphasizes.

Martinez recalls that just a week ago, the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, one of the most important in the world, saw how a user changed his identity on Twitter and lost billions at its cost. This user took advantage of Elon Musk’s new policy, which allowed anyone who paid an $8 monthly subscription to receive the blue badge previously only available to verified users. The user paid the fee, changed his name and profile picture to the one used by the pharmaceutical group, and posted: “We are happy to announce that insulin is now free.”

Shares of Eli Lilly, which has a market capitalization of more than $300 billion, fell 5% as soon as the tweet went viral. Now Twitter is subject to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by the group and a flight from advertisers that far outweighs the benefits it will get from the new subscription. “It seems to me a mistake that Telegram wants to be exposed for this,” Martinez concludes.

Source: El Diario

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