The French government has indicated it intends to move to using its own encrypted messaging service this summer, over concerns of the risks that foreign entities could spy on officials using popular encrypted apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp.
Reuters reports that ministers are concerned about the use of foreign-built encrypted apps which do not have servers in France.
“We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the United States or Russia,” a digital ministry spokeswoman told the news agency. “You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we should take the lead.”
Why not use WhatsApp or Telegram?
Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, is Russian, though the entrepreneur lives in exile and his messaging app has just been blocked in his home country after the company refused to hand over encryption keys to the authorities.
WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted across its entire platform — using the respected and open sourced Signal Protocol — is nonetheless owned by U.S. tech giant Facebook, and developed out of the U.S. Its parent company is currently embroiled in a major data misuse scandal after it emerged that tens of millions of Facebook users’ information was passed to a controversial political consultancy without their knowledge or consent.
Beta Version Available
The ministry spokeswoman said about 20 officials and top civil servants in the French government are testing the new messaging app, with the aim of its use becoming mandatory for the whole government by the summer. It could also eventually be made available to all citizens, she added.
Reuters reports the spokeswoman also said a state-employed developer has designed the app, using free-to-use code available for download online (which presumably means it’s based on open source software) — although she declined to name the code being used or the messaging service.
France might be well on its way to becoming the next China once this decision is fully implemented Telegram and WhatsApp.
Image Credit: Unsplash