Swiss army bans WhatsApp from providing local services
Swiss army bans WhatsApp from providing local services

According to the Associated Press, the Swiss military has banned military personnel from using WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and other encrypted foreign messaging services for official communication.

Conversely, the Swiss military has ordered employees to use the Swiss-made Threema app due to concerns about Washington legislation regulating US authorities' access to information from technology companies.

The news was announced in a letter to the Army Chief of Staff in December last year. He cited privacy concerns based on US authorities' ability to access data.

In a letter to the Commander in Chief, the Army Chief of Staff requested the use of the Swiss instant messaging service Threema. On December 29, upgrades to this service were posted on the Swiss Armed Forces Facebook page.

Officials stressed that as soldiers are deployed to support the high-mountain response to the coronavirus pandemic, the need for secure communications will grow.

There were reports that the letter, originally sent to military leaders, indicated that no other courier service was allowed. However, the spokeswoman appears to be downplaying the implementing regulations, calling it a recommendation from the Associated Press.

The spokeswoman said the military cannot and will not force soldiers to use certain apps on their devices.

The main concern appears to be the ability of Washington authorities to access data held by companies under US jurisdiction, as outlined in the US Cloud Act.

WhatsApp is banned for data protection reasons

CLOUD requires service providers under US jurisdiction to follow search commands regardless of server location.

As a Swiss company that does not host servers in the USA, Threema is under no obligation to respond to these search warrants.

With European GDPR regulations dictating strict data protection regulations, data protection officials and multinational companies hope that records stored in the European Union will not be subject to the jurisdiction of US courts.

However, in January 2020, a federal judge in New York ruled that compliance with foreign privacy laws does not excuse the filing of discovered documents. This relates to the case of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which prosecuted the messaging app Telegram because the messaging app did not have enough records to sell cryptocurrency.

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