Stop using WhatsApp, get Paris-made alternative, French PM tells ministers

By Elizabeth Pineau and Tassilo Hummel

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s prime minister asked her cabinet to stop using widespread instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram and install widely unknown Olvid, a product of Paris’s start-up scene presenting itself as a more secure alternative.

In a ministerial circular, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne urged ministers and their top staff to deploy the Olvid app on phones and computers, her office told Reuters on Wednesday, confirming French media reports.

Olvid, run by two cryptography researchers and backed by several French tech accelerators, will “replace other instant messaging systems in order to strengthen the security of exchanges that may contain confidential information”, the Prime Minister’s office said.

French magazine Le Point earlier reported the circular announcing the move gives ministers a Dec. 8 deadline to replace their messaging apps, citing the prime minister as saying:

“The main consumer instant messaging applications are playing an increasingly important role in our day-to-day communications. However, these digital tools are not without security flaws, and so cannot guarantee the security of conversations and information shared via them.”

Messaging apps like Meta’s WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal have increasingly become the go-to tool of communication in the inner circles of French politics, and government officials also use the apps when talking to journalists. President Emmanuel Macron is said to be an avid user of messaging apps himself.

On its website, Olvid claims to be “the first and only messaging system” that is not relying on any trusted third parties and centralised servers, while also encrypting user metadata.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Josie Kao)

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