Due to privacy concerns, Switzerland’s army has instructed its troops not to use foreign messengers such as WhatsApp. Threema, a Swiss app, is recommended instead.

The Swiss army has decided to prohibit the use of popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. Due to data protection concerns, the new guidelines, which went into effect in December, require all employees to transition to a locally produced alternative.

In December, Swiss army commanders and chiefs of staff were told via email from headquarters to ensure that their personnel switched to the Swiss texting software ‘Threema.’ The rationale was given as information security.

The order explicitly prohibits the use of other apps: “all other services are no longer permitted,” according to media with access to the email’s content. However, it is unclear whether there would be any consequences for people who continue to use WhatsApp or other international messengers.

The Swiss Army is also anticipated to reimburse the four Swiss francs required to download Threema.

“The suggestions apply to everyone in the army, including new conscripts and those returning for refresher training,” Swiss military spokeswoman Daniel Reist told AFP. Authorities emphasized the need for secure communications as Swiss soldiers needed to operate in several regions to bolster the Alpine country’s reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Because WhatsApp is owned by Meta, a business situated in the United States, everything would be subject to the US Cloud Act. Regardless of where the servers are located, the Act requires service providers in that country to comply with search and seizure warrants.

Threema does not have any servers in the United States and would therefore be exempt from responding to such court warrants.

What is India’s stance?

Similar worries about data and national security have been expressed in India about military officers’ usage of foreign mobile apps, which may jeopardize security.

After the Indian government banned many Chinese smartphone apps due to security concerns in 2020, the Indian Army directed its members to uninstall 89 apps, including Facebook, PUBG, Zoom, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, and several dating apps.

The Indian Army has released the Army Secure IndiGeneous Messaging Application, an instant messaging program (ASIGMA). The app can be accessed via smartphones via the army’s internal network.

“ASIGMA is being installed on the Army’s internal network as a replacement for the Army Wide Area Network (AWAN) messaging application, which has been in service for the past 15 years,” according to the defense ministry.