French ministers will have to stop using WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal as messaging services starting 8 December for security reasons, with the government already urging them to switch to a new French-made messaging app called Olvid.
In a government note dated 22 November and seen by Euractiv, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne requires all ministers and ministers’ cabinet members to do away with popular messaging apps WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.
These “are not devoid of security flaws and thus do not guarantee the security of conversations and information shared through them”, the note reads.
Instead, Borne is calling on all ministers to switch to a new French-made app called Olvid, which has been developed to “counter threats” from the use of other apps, the note adds. All the necessary technical changes must be made by 8 December.
Olvid is a Paris-based startup developing a private messaging app, whose slogan reads: “The most secure messaging app in the world”. The French cybersecurity agency ANSSI awarded the application two security certifications.
Unlike its competitors, the company claims that its solution does not require any data – phone numbers, contact books, etc. – to be used to its fullest extent. It also claims to be encrypting metadata; WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram, meanwhile, only encrypt messages.
“The integration of this [app] not only constitutes a growing awareness of cyber security [concerns], but also a step forward towards a greater French technological sovereignty,” the Prime Minister’s note highlights.
“I have been using Olvid since 2022 with my team, and I can assure people who are concerned that it works perfectly well”, Digital Minister Jean-Noël Barrot told FranceInfo on Thursday, sharing his hopes that this would encourage more users to turn to French-based messaging technologies and reinforce France’s “strategic autonomy”.
This is not the first time the French government has turned to French solutions.
In 2019, it agreed to implement French public messaging app Tchap – a service now used by 400,000 public officials across France, according to the French digital interministerial directorate.
This decision comes just under a year after Euractiv revealed that the European Commission, later followed by other EU institutions, had banned the use of the social media platform TikTok on corporate mobiles, citing data privacy concerns.
The French government followed suit, citing similar concerns, and banned ‘recreational’ apps, including TikTok, Instagram and Netflix, on work devices for all public servants.
[Edited by Théo Bourgery-Gonse]
(Théophane Hartmann | Euractiv France)
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