Press "Enter" to skip to content

Get the message

Ashley Friedlein gives five reasons why businesses should avoid using consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp

Like video meeting solutions, the use of consumer messaging apps has rocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with WhatsApp usage up 40% according to analysis by Kantar.

We know some of this increase will be for professional purposes because in a recent survey of 1,261 UK workers commissioned by Guild, 41% admitted to using WhatsApp for work.

While the explosion in messaging is to be welcomed as a simple and fast way to connect and collaborate digitally, using WhatsApp for business communication is risky for five reasons.

1 Legal terms prohibit business use
WhatsApp’s terms clearly exclude its use for commercial purposes. They state: “You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that involve any non-personal use.” Although it seems unlikely that Facebook would sue a company for such use, it has threatened litigation against businesses that use WhatsApp for overly commercial reasons.

2 GDPR and other privacy legislation
It is practically impossible to use WhatsApp in a way that is compliant with GDPR and other privacy legislation. Lack of explicit consent when adding other users; an inability to delete information after an hour; an inability to request your own message data; and the transfer of data outside the EU are all reasons for a business to be concerned.

3 Record keeping of conversations
Depending on the jurisdiction and industry sector involved, businesses have varying degrees of legal obligation to keep a record of communications with employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. WhatsApp keeps no record of such conversations.

4 Corporate governance
Businesses have legal obligations to protect employees and ensure adequate levels of oversight, governance and control e.g. to protect against bullying in the workplace, harassment or inappropriate behaviour. Businesses also need to protect sensitive commercial information. With WhatsApp, businesses won’t know what groups exist, let alone who is in them or whether former employees or contractors still have access to information they shouldn’t. Businesses can’t delete messages, however inappropriate or damaging, and even if admin removes a member from a WhatsApp group, they can’t revoke access to content unless the user himself/herself deletes that content.

5 Safeguarding risks
While WhatsApp’s terms of use say it shouldn’t be used by those under 16 years of age, safeguarding extends beyond children to young people and vulnerable adults. The problem with WhatsApp is that admins or hosts of messaging groups cannot moderate or delete the contributions of others, even if those messages create safeguarding issues. The fact that WhatsApp is so ubiquitous has encouraged many businesses to turn a blind eye to its use at work, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

However, there are alternatives, from general purpose professional messaging apps like Guild to industry-specific apps like Hospify in healthcare or Novastone in financial services, that like consumer messaging apps are easy to use and free (or very affordable), but which provide the privacy, security, control and regulatory compliance necessary for business and professional use.

Ashley Friedlein is the CEO & Founder of Guild, a private professional messaging app that is designed to be as easy to use as WhatsApp, advertising-free and GDPR compliant.

Business Info Magazine & Site is Published by Kingswood Media 2022