France builds WhatsApp rival due to surveillance risk

France builds WhatsApp rival due to surveillance risk

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 6:39 am

The French government is building its own encrypted messenger service to ease fears that foreign entities can spy on private conversations between top officials, the digital ministry said on Monday.

None of the world’s major encrypted messaging apps, including Facebook’s (FB.O) WhatsApp and Telegram, a favorite of President Emmanuel Macron, are based in France, raising the risk of data breaches at servers outside the country.

The ministry said about 20 officials and top civil servants are testing the new app which a state-employed developer has designed with the aim that its use will become mandatory for the whole government by the summer.

“We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the United States or Russia.

“You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we should take the lead,’’ the digital ministry said.

The U.S. social network, which bought WhatsApp in 2014, has drawn heavy criticism since it acknowledged that information about many millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

“The French government’s encrypted app has been developed on the basis of free-to-use code found on the Internet and could be eventually made available to all citizens,’’ the ministry added.

The ministry however declined to give the names of either the codes or the messaging service.

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