French government developing its own secure WhatsApp-like messaging app
France is reportedly developing its own instant messaging app for government officials. This comes amid a fear of foreign messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which are not based out of France, spying on private conversations between top officials, the country's digital ministry said. As a solution, the French government is building its own encrypted alternative.
With WhatsApp and Telegram, the French government runs the risk of data getting breached at servers outside the country. Even though both the existing apps are end-to-end encrypted, a high-profile security tool by French security firm Thales does not allow either app to function on government officials' work phones. This has raised concerns regarding potential data leak and privacy breach.
According to a ministry spokeswoman, a state-employed developer has designed the new messaging app and around 20 officials and top civil servants are currently testing it. The encrypted app has been built atop a free-to-use code from the internet. The app is expected to become mandatory for the entire French government as their sole instant messaging platform by summer.
"We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the US or Russia. You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we...took the lead," the spokeswoman said. She was referring to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, under which 87 million Facebook users' personal data was collected without their consent.
Last month, The Defence Department of the Australian government banned country officials from using popular Chinese messaging app WeChat in order to alleviate its data security fears. More recently, Russia banned Telegram after the latter refused to give the government its encryption keys.