Deeptech/Telecoms/News/ Europe’s armies look for digital sovereignty in new messaging tech Germany’s Bundeswehr is the latest military to move to a decentralised chat service By Freya Pratty 30 November 2020 Mid section of military soldier using mobile phone in boot camp. letter from war. Mid section of military soldier using mobile phone in boot camp. letter from war. \Deeptech Ultra-secure messaging service Element sees fivefold increase in signups after Whatsapp privacy debacle By Freya Pratty 25 January 2021 Deeptech/Telecoms/News/ Europe’s armies look for digital sovereignty in new messaging tech Germany’s Bundeswehr is the latest military to move to a decentralised chat service By Freya Pratty 30 November 2020 For Europe’s militaries, using a messenger service like Whatsapp, Signal or Telegram for communication presents serious problems — namely that the servers reside outside of the government’s borders. In their quest for digital sovereignty, armies are turning to open software systems like Matrix, which allows them to send end-to-end encrypted messages (where only the sender and recipient can read them) as well as having control over communication servers. The latest army to use Matrix is Germany’s Bundeswehr. They’ve just developed Bwmessenger, a chat service that’s built on Matrix’s software, and 50,000 from the force are now using the service. In a statement, the Bundeswehr said commercial products like Whatsapp are “unsuitable for sovereign tasks” because they do not meet requirements around confidentiality and information security. Although also end-to-end encrypted, systems like Whatsapp and Telegram ultimately process messages through their own infrastructure. On Matrix and other decentralised systems, data is hosted on infrastructure owned by the participating company — in this case, the Bundeswehr. “By using the decentralised Matrix network, the Bundeswehr gets to store all its users’ data and messages on its own servers to ensure it has complete ownership and control of its data,” explains Amandine Le Pape, cofounder of Matrix. “Using the likes of WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram means government data ends up on app providers’ servers that reside outside of the government’s own borders.” Amandine Le Pape, cofounder of Matrix France’s armed forces were the first to adopt a Matrix-based system. In April last year, they launched Tchap, based on Matrix, with the aim of moving secure communications off Telegram, which had been the government’s previous choice. The Bundeswehr’s move to follow France comes after German regulators announced earlier this month that they are to investigate WhatsApp and other messaging services to check how they store users’ data. The country’s Federal Cartel Office said it had opened an inquiry into messenger services, citing possible violations of consumer protection law. While militaries use Matrix to develop their own communication services, Matrix’s sister company, Element, provides a commercial chat service that can be downloaded by anyone, based on the same software. In July, Element secured the largest single contract for a collaborative software service ever, supplying half a million licences to the German education system. Speaking to Sifted at the time, Matthew Hodgson, cofounder of Matrix and Element, said concerns over digital sovereignty had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. “Digital sovereignty has become a genuinely hot button topic over the last few months, both thanks to the cybersecurity risks of applications run by other nation states, and desire for nations to naturally have autonomy over their own infrastructure,” he said. “Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced organisations into remote working who simply cannot depend on typical Silicon Valley centralised services.” Freya Pratty covers news at Sifted. She tweets from @FPratty Related Articles Slack-rival Element wins largest ever collaborative software deal By Michael Stothard Click here to read more ‘Slack for doctors’ app Siilo raises $10.5m By Amy Lewin Click here to read more Cybersecurity startups come to the rescue By Marie Mawad in Paris Click here to read more Most Read 1 \Healthtech Is Daniel Ek’s new body scanner worth the hype? Sifted tried it out 2 \Venture Capital VC diversity needs to change — and white men need to take responsibility 3 \Venture Capital New €3.75bn European Investment Fund pot to back late-stage VCs 4 \Sustainability Counteract closes £15m fund for carbon removal solutions 5 \Mobility Was the $5bn that VCs plugged into escooters worth it?