San Francisco lawmakers use a secret messaging app to keep chats from prying public eyes

Telegram, a self-destructing messaging app, has become popular among San Francisco public officials as a way to evade public records laws, says a report in The Information.

California law says that texts and emails are considered part of the public record if they relate to public business, according to a guide from the city attorney.

A lot of other chat services encrypt messages so they can’t be read by anybody but the intended recipient. But those messages could theoretically be grabbed from the devices themselves with the proper court order.

Telegram lets users set messages to self-destruct on the devices used for the chat, so they cannot be seen after a certain time period.

Several San Francisco supervisors — the city council members who make many of the city’s laws — are reportedly using the app, and one unnamed government staff member said in the report that they were encouraged to use the app as a way of bypassing public records.

Telegram rose to notoriety after it was apparently used by ISIS members to spread propaganda. Telegram shut down almost 80 such channels last November.

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