National and Technological Security: reflections on the French ban on using WhatsApp

(To Claudio Verzola)
01/12/23

The recent initiative of the French government to ban the use of Whatsapp and other foreign messaging apps to ministers and civil servants represents a significant turning point in the national and technological security debate. This move, announced by French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, aims to replace such applications with Olvid, a messaging app developed in France considered more secure from a cyber point of view. This decision emblematically highlights the growing concern for communications security and digital sovereignty.

France's choice to opt for a national platform like Olvid, created by French cybersecurity experts in 2019, also poses an important reflection for Italy. The application, which encrypts messages and their metadata end-to-end, represents an example of how a country can develop internal technological solutions to ensure the security of official communications.

For Italy, which currently depends largely on foreign technologies and platforms for communication and cybersecurity, this French initiative offers a model to consider or at least reflect on.

As we face similar challenges in terms of protecting official communications and data security, Olvid's example demonstrates the importance and feasibility of developing indigenous technological capabilities, as well as the real risk of exposing sensitive information to the outside world.

“Digital sovereignty,” or a country's ability to control and protect its digital infrastructure and data, has become a critical issue. In an era where cybersecurity is critical to the protection of critical infrastructure and privacy of citizens, depending on foreign platforms exposes them to significant risks.

France's decision to ban the use of WhatsApp and other foreign apps by its ministers and public officials is a clear signal that communications security is not an issue to be taken lightly. In Italy, where official and sensitive communications still largely occur through foreign platforms, it is time to evaluate similar options to strengthen our national security.

The French example places emphasis not only on security, but is also a clear example of how a country can act to strengthen its digital sovereignty. For Italy, this should act as a stimulus to develop a stronger national strategy in terms of cybersecurity and technological sovereignty. Only then can we ensure the security of our communications, protect our data and, ultimately, strengthen our position in the world.