Five members of Cabinet have downloaded an encrypted messaging app that wipes text conversations, images, videos and voice notices.
The app ‘Signal’ offers similar functions to that of WhatsApp, where users’ messages along with other information will be automatically deleted after a certain length of time.
The app, which allows text conversations to be erased from both ends, differs from WhatsApp as it only retains text message data on the device and doesn’t back it up in the cloud.
The five ministers that have accounts with the messaging service are Stephen Donnelly, Heather Humphreys, Paschal Donohoe, Eamon Ryan and Roderic O’Gorman.
The use of the app amongst government figures comes amid controversy over Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney deleting his text conversation with Katherine Zappone over her appointment as UN Special Envoy in July.
When it was later discovered that Coveney deleted the texts, he was met with accusations that he had deleted the texts to avoid scrutiny under the Freedom of Information law.
While telling reporters that he deleted the messages after his phone was hacked, he told RTÉ radio; “I keep most of the messages that come through to me. Sometimes, I do delete texts if they come through and I’ve dealt with them quickly.”
Official government guidance on the Freedom of Information Act requires all employees of the state to retain records such as text messages and emails if official business is being conducted through private messaging.