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French build new encryption based messaging

by on17 April 2018

Saying "non" to nasty foreign roast beef-eating encryption with "superior" french tech

The French government is building an encrypted messenger service to ease fears that foreign entities could spy on private conversations between top officials.

The digital ministry said that none of the world’s major encrypted messaging apps, including Facebook’s WhatsApp and Telegram, are based in France, raising the risk of data breaches at servers outside the country.

More than 20 officials and top civil servants are testing the new app which a state-employed developer has designed, a ministry spokeswoman said, 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 US 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 by free-to-use code found on the internet and could be eventually made available to all citizens.

Macron’s inner circle are fans of the Telegram app, which they used to plot his rise to power and his presidential election campaign last year. But privacy concerns started growing earlier this year, and security tools from French security firm Thales installed on officials’ work smartphones prevented the use of either WhatsApp or Telegram.

Telegram was set up by a Russian entrepreneur who has come into conflict with the authorities. Russia’s state telecommunications regulator said it had begun blocking access to Telegram after the company refused to comply with an order to give state security access to its users’ secret messages.

Both WhatsApp and Telegram promote themselves as ultra-secure because all their data is encrypted from start to finish. WhatsApp relies on open industry standards created by the developers behind Signal, a rival messaging app, while Telegram relies on its own, home-grown encryption techniques.

Last modified on 17 April 2018
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