Businesses today are in need of an enterprise-grade instant messaging solution. As of early 2016, WhatsApp has recorded more than 1 billion monthly active users, up from 700 million from the same period in 2015. So it’s no surprise that small, medium and even large businesses have taken to using the popular instant messaging service in the context of their day to day communications and operations. It would be easy to imagine that staff, already personal users in their own right, would find it convenient to use as their business contacts would also appear in their WhatsApp contact list. There are several reasons why enterprise usage of this easy to use and convenient app should cause serious consternation for businesses worldwide.
• Strengthening European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) insist on stringent regulations in the management, hosting and export of customer data across all industries. It is unclear exactly where WhatsApp data centers are located, but those that are located outside the EU are not required to comply with European legislation. This means that customer data, contact data and messaging information is not necessarily being handled in the legal way that is regulated for your European-based business. The implications of the new GDPR regulations are imperative for businesses to understand so that they can fully comply. Not doing so will result in legal exposure and potential damage to your public reputation.
• WhatsApp is owned by Facebook who intend to fully avail of the big data opportunities provided by WhatsApp. The data within WhatsApp can be used to improve advertising revenues in Facebook – data such as phone number and personal profile data. Facebook is likely to expand the data sharing to contact address book as well as user communication behavior data and analysis – who you text frequently, what times are favoured by you and how often you message. In this way Facebook is able to build a valuable model of your relationships and combining that with data mined from Facebook (such as where you and your contacts work) and can apply the results to advertising to personalize it even further. For businesses this is absolutely unacceptable – your contact data, your business relationships are all being passed to a completely separate entity and all confidentiality and security is lost.
• WhatsApp’s record for data privacy is exceedingly poor. In 2015 WhatsApp was ranked last by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the subject of users’ data privacy. Even more worryingly, the European Court of Justice ruled that U.S. based companies in the tech industry – specifically Facebook – do not afford an adequate level of protection of personal data for their European users. Considering that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and the terms and conditions of WhatsApp’s usage wrangle users into agreeing to have certain data passed from WhatsApp to Facebook, then this is a double blow for user privacy.
• Even though WhatsApp have improved the end-to-end encryption of the actual messages themselves, the user identification is still based on the phone number. This poses severe security and privacy concerns should an employee change their phone number. Phone numbers can be recycled by telecommunications companies or simply be given away if the SIM is also included when an employee gives away or sells their old phone. Ultimately this all leads to non-employees taking on that WhatsApp identity – getting Group messages or other business related messages. Even if the employee leaves the business they will not be automatically removed from receiving business communications.
• People find the Group message function of WhatsApp very useful for keeping everyone in the loop. The security issue arises however in that only the creator of the Group can add or remove anyone who may be inappropriately included when the topic of conversation elevates in terms of sensitive, confidential company information. It is extremely hard to control what is said and who it is said to, and even more for a group creator to remember who should be removed from big unwieldy groups of users.
It is clear that WhatsApp for Enterprise usage is simply not fit for purpose. Read here about our recommendation to address these challenges, and to allow Enterprises to maintain control of their information while allowing users communicate in an effective and familiar way.