Article

Aliya Zaidi
Aliya Zaidi 19 February 2020
Categories B2B, Mobile, Social Media

4 Risks of Using WhatsApp for Work

You're not supposed to use WhatsApp for work; did you know? While technically WhatsApp isn't supposed to be utilised in the office, according to new research from messaging platform, Guild, almost half of UK workers (41%) admitted to using the messaging platform for work, despite this violating WhatsApp's own terms of service. So what are the potential risks?

WhatsApp is supposed to be for personal use only, and yet 41% of UK workers are using the platform for work purposes despite it being against WhatsApp’s legal terms of service, according to new research from business messaaging platform, Guild. This figure rises to 53% for the under 45’s, and in Greater London, the percentage using WhatsApp professionally hits a staggering 58%.

So what are some of the potential risks?

1. WhatsApp may not be GDPR compliant.

As well violating WhatsApp's own legal terms, the features of WhatsApp may not comply with European privacy legislation, such as the GDPR. There's further debate surrounding whether WhatsApp usage is compliant with the CCPA, in California. 

Ashley Friedlein, CEO and Founder of Guild said:

“WhatsApp users are unlikely to be aware the platform isn’t for business use. However businesses cannot hide behind ignorance or turn a blind eye. They need to educate their employees around the importance of using platforms designed for professional use that provide the necessary levels of control and regulatory compliance.” 

2. Some of the material shared may be "NSFW" ("Not Suitable for Work".

Last week, Ireland’s GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) joined other organisations in banning the use of WhatsApp by its clubs because WhatsApp is not GDPR-compliant. As well as non-compliance, another concern is around the sharing of ‘unsuitable material’. Once shared, this cannot be removed from WhatsApp by administrators which creates safeguarding issues. 

3. You don't know who's using WhatsApp groups. 

In addition, there is no way for management to know which groups have been created, who is on the group and even whether the group allows access from people from outside the organisation. 

In addition, if groups were once used by ex-employees, or by additional stakeholders sich as outside contractors and or former customers, they may still have access to business information that they shouldn't. 

David Naylor, Partner at law firm Wiggin, which specialises in media, technology and IP, said:

“It is difficult to see how WhatsApp could claim to be fully GDPR compliant and it is against WhatsApp's own terms of use to use it for work purposes. Businesses are taking risks if they allow employees to use consumer messaging apps which operate completely outside their governance, making it impossible to protect company data or comply with their own data protection obligations.”

4. Sensitive or private information cannot be deleted permanently. 

If you're using WhatsApp where security and protecting sensitive information is paramount, then WhatsApp is risky if you accidentally share something you're not supposed to. WhatsApp enables users to delete messages for up to one hour, but if a employee has not realised, they may miss this window of opportunity. In which case, the information remains local to the phone of the person who received the message. 

WhatsApp for Business

Those companies that wish to communicate with their customers can opt to use WhatsApp's business app. However, this is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses who want to share information with their customers, rather than for companies looking for an internal communications tool. 

Some of the uses of WhatsApp for business include the ability to update customers on their orders and thank them for making a purchase. 

Facebook recently announced that WhatsApp has two billion users. If you're part of a consumer-facing organisation, it's likely that a large proportion of your customers will be communicating on WhatsApp. Businesses need to go where their customers are and use the channels their core audience is familiar with. 

Summary 

While WhatsApp is the channel of choice for consumers, businesses must not overlook compliance issues. It is crucial for companies to ensure their operations fully adhere to data privacy standards and make sure they are taking adequate steps to protect sensitive information. 

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