Element is delighted to see BWI and Bundeswehr launch a Matrix-based communications platform, BwMessenger, in the iOS and Android app stores. BwMessenger is the latest Matrix-based messenger to be made available, joining many others including the French government’s Tchap platform and - of course - Element, the flagship Matrix app.
BwMessenger is the new standardized, secure and device-independent messaging service for the Bundeswehr. It will support more than 50,000 users across Germany’s Armed Forces.
BwMessenger, which replaces the "BwChat" app for private smartphones and tablets, is based on the same SDKs as the open source Element app.
Taking full advantage of the open source and decentralised Matrix network, BwMessenger has been optimised to meet the requirements of the German Armed Forces, with regards to the confidentiality and integrity of transmitted data and information security.
Based on the Matrix open protocol, BwMessenger offers multiple benefits:
- Digital sovereignty: The entire solution is hosted on the Bundeswehr's own servers, so the organization has complete control over its data.
- Security: Communication is protected by end-to-end encryption for all data traffic, alongside cross-signed device verification to guard against imposters.
- An open environment: Operating on top of an open protocol, BwMessenger can be easily federated in the future to aid cooperation between multiple organizations, internally or externally.
- Open source: By building on open source, BWI is free to adapt and expand the messenger at any time, and can be supported by a vibrant developer community.
BwMessenger operates on both Bundeswehr-issued devices and users’ personal devices. To enable collaborative working and preserve individuals’ privacy, BwMessenger leverages Matrix’ existing ability to enable users to find each other without having to share mobile phone numbers or other contact details.
Governments need digital sovereignty
The on-premise deployment, enabled by Matrix, gives Bundeswehr complete digital sovereignty of its data. Self-hosting is of critical importance to governments when it comes to secure messaging and collaboration apps. It ensures data stays on government servers, without hindering the opportunity to communicate with the wider Matrix network.
Meanwhile, Matrix could also be used to interconnect entirely separate public sector deployments. As Germany’s Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber said: "Possibly one could even set up a data protection-friendly messenger service in cooperation with France, which could represent a real alternative to existing products on the market as a pan-European solution in the medium term."
Citizens can enjoy better privacy and an open network too
The Bundeswehr has adopted BwMessenger having found traditional proprietary messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, unsuitable for sovereign use.
Government use of end-to-end encrypted messaging across the open Matrix network - such as Bundeswehr, the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg and the French government - presents a strong signal to others about the importance of organizations owning their own messaging data. We see more and more governments running Matrix-based pilots, and bringing their supply chains into the open Matrix environment too.
In the consumer world Germany’s competition regulator, the Federal Cartel Office, recently opened a sector inquiry into messenger services to investigate how WhatsApp and other messaging services handle users’ personal information, and whether being able to send messages between different providers could boost privacy. It hopes to gain insight into whether interoperability to allow messaging apps to send messages to each other could encourage users to opt for services that do more to protect privacy.
The 25M+ people that already use Matrix are able to self-host their data and messages, and choose from a wide range of different apps that use the Matrix protocol. As an open network - with its ability to bridge into traditional proprietary apps such as Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams, Slack, WeChat and WhatsApp - Matrix offers exactly the sort of interoperability between messenger services that the Federal Cartel Office envisages providing better privacy and flexibility for consumers.
By implementing their own digital sovereign messaging services, and through market regulation, governments are improving privacy for all and ushering in a new era of decentralised technology.