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Swiss army knifes WhatsApp at work

Seeing other apps like Whatsapp as vulnerable to U.S. data mining, the Swiss army is offering to cover the $4.35 cost of service members downloading a secure messaging service called Threema.

ZURICH (AFP) — Switzerland's army has banned the use of WhatsApp whilst on duty, a spokesman confirmed Thursday, in favor of a Swiss messaging service deemed more secure in terms of data protection.

The ban also applies to using other messaging apps like Signal and Telegram on soldiers' private phones during service operations.

At the end of December, commanders and chiefs of staff received an email from headquarters recommending that their troops switch to using the Swiss-based Threema.

The recommendation applies "to everyone," including conscripts doing their military service and those returning for refresher courses, army spokesman Daniel Reist told AFP.

Switzerland is famously neutral. However, its longstanding position is one of armed neutrality and the landlocked European country has mandatory conscription for men.

The question of using messaging apps on duty came up during operations to support hospitals and the vaccination program in Switzerland's efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic, Reist said.

The Swiss army will cover the 4 Swiss francs ($4.35) cost of downloading Threema, which is already used by other public bodies in Switzerland.

Other messaging services such as WhatsApp are subject to the U.S. Cloud Act, which allows the United States authorities to access data held by U.S. operators, even if it is held on servers outside the country.

Threema, which claims 10 million users, says it is an instant messenger designed to generate as little user data as possible. It is not financed by advertising.

"All communication is end-to-end encrypted, and the app is open source," the company says on its website.

© Agence France-Presse

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