France is building a WhatsApp-like messenger service to avoid data leaks. The French government is reportedly developing an encrypted messaging service that will give users peace of mind when it comes to their data.
The French Government may have been motivated to begin the development following Following the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica saga. The Cambridge Analytica scandal began back in June 2014, when a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan developed a personality-quiz app for Facebook.
The app had many similarities to an app created by the Psychometrics Centre, at Cambridge University laboratory where Kogan worked. About 270,000 people added Kogan’s app to their Facebook account which meant that Kogan then had access to all of these users and their friend's data.
Kogan then supplied this user data now around 50 million people to the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica allegedly used that data to make 30 million “psychographic” profiles about voters. These profiles may have been used to influence elections in both the US and the UK
WhatsApp not trusted in Europe
WhatsApp also has a chequered history when it comes to security. In December 2016, the European Union issued a complaint to Facebook questioning whether they misled the union when Facebook took over Whatsapp in 2014.
At the time of the takeover, Facebook said it would be unable to reliably match people’s Facebook accounts with their mobile phone numbers from WhatsApp. Though later in the US the social media giant did link WhatsApp users to their Facebook profiles causing the European Union to question whether Facebook had the technical capabilities to do this all along.
Facebook accused of misleading EU
They alleged that Facebook may have either intentionally or negligently supplied misleading information at the time of the merger. The French government might have concerns not only over Messenger and WhatsApp but also over Telegram, another popular messaging service, because their data is not based in France and is therefore vulnerable to possible data breaches.
The Australian government is also flexing its muscles in the instant messaging arena. Last month the Defence Department banned its officials from using the Chinese based service, WeChat due to fears about security. Defense Department barred officials from using officials from using Chinese social messaging platform WeChat on their phones last month, a move that is likely related to data security fears in the country.
France will offer app to officials before end of Summer
Details about the French-developed service are still thin on the ground but a ministry spokeswoman told Reuters the app is being designed by a "state-employed developer". It is reportedly being tested by "about 20 officials and top civil servants." The spokesperson said the government hopes the app would be rolled out before the summer to internal governmental staff before offered to citizens soon after.