PARIS (Agencies): In an effort to bolster security measures, the French government has officially prohibited government employees from utilizing popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and others for internal communications. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne issued a memo outlining the ban, which is set to take effect on December 8.
Cabinet members have been directed to opt for French encrypted messaging apps, particularly Olvid, renowned for its enhanced privacy features and security protocols.
Olvid, the recommended alternative, distinguishes itself by not requiring a SIM card or phone number for user registration and encrypts both message content and metadata. It has been singularly awarded a security certificate by the French National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (ANSSI). Additionally, another French messaging app, Tchap, has been approved for official use.
This directive echoes a strategy previously adopted by the Swiss military, which mandated the discontinuation of popular messaging apps in favor of Threema, a domestically-developed encrypted messaging service, for both official and private communication.
This recent ban constitutes the second phase of app restrictions for French public servants in 2023. In March, Minister of Public Services Stanislas Guerini announced the prohibition of “recreational apps” like TikTok on government phones, citing security concerns. Notably, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Candy Crush, and dating apps were included in the initial ban.
WhatsApp, despite offering encrypted messaging, has faced scrutiny for its data practices, including readily sharing user data with the US government. A notable security flaw allowed the installation of the Pegasus spyware tool without user consent. This move aligns with global concerns about data security and privacy, with various countries implementing restrictions on popular apps.
In July, the French government passed legislation granting law enforcement agencies the authority to remotely access cameras, microphones, and location services of individuals suspected of serious offenses, such as terrorism, demonstrating the country’s commitment to strengthening security measures.