BundesMessenger, the latest iteration of an app that is designed for use by members of the German public administration, had a version specially designed for Huawei devices.

Scott Bicheno

March 6, 2024

3 Min Read
source: https://messenger.bwi.de/bundesmessenger

On one level this is just a practical matter; since Huawei has been kicked off the Google Play Store due to US government pressure, it has had to run a proprietary app store on its Android-based devices, called AppGallery. In Germany, as in the UK and nearly all other countries, people are free to buy Huawei smartphones if they feel like it. So if you want Huawei smartphone owners to be able to access your app, you have to make a version of it for AppGallery.

But, of course, Huawei is considered a blanket security threat by the US, a position it vigorously urges its geopolitical allies to reflect. While this position primarily affects networking equipment, Huawei phones have effectively been banned from use by the US public sector, and anyone who wants to stay on its good side, for years. So this move may cause friction between these two key NATO allies.

The matter was flagged up in a recent Newsweek story, which frames it as a ‘new tech scare’. The extent to which that claim is justified remains debatable, but it is a bit surprising to see the German state remaining so reluctant to distance itself from Huawei, considering the current geopolitical facts on the ground. To amplify the sense of drama, the story juxtaposes this move with the recent publication of a tapped call between German military officials by the head of Russia Today.

There’s no suggestion in the Newsweek piece that Huawei devices or apps were involved in Russia getting hold of the recording but, at the very least, it’s offered as a further proof-point that the German state’s attitude towards communications security is lax.

The piece quotes a few experts tutting about Germany’s cavalier approach to security, but also this comment from a German Ministry of Defense spokesperson about the new app: “All messages are encrypted end-to-end with the personal key of the respective user. When used, the data is processed exclusively in Germany. There are no official Huawei devices in the ministry's official business.”

While Newsweek positions the news as its own revelation, all the details of BundesMessenger, including a link to its AppGallery version, are in the public domain. Germany clearly doesn’t think this is a big deal but the ultimate point of the story is that its allies, especially the US, may well beg to differ.

“The BundesMessenger is the further development of a messaging solution that has been available in the Bundeswehr since 2020 and which today has over 100,000 users: the BwMessenger,” says the app website. “Now the open source solution continues its journey into public administration, as a blueprint for a standardized and at the same time customizable secure messenger for federal, state and local governments.”

Germany remains a laggard in the far more consequential matter of the removal of ‘high risk’ (i.e. Chinese) vendors from its mobile networks. A year ago, Light Reading reported that Huawei accounts for the majority of Germany’s 4G and 5G network equipment. Germany is in a bit of a geopolitical bind as it has strong trade ties with China and is therefore walking a tightrope on the matter of Huawei, in the hope of keeping the US, EU and China happy all at once. As the competing blocs move further apart, that is an increasingly difficult trick to pull off.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

You May Also Like