Today, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in over 100 countries, with over 2 billion active users worldwide. Its simplicity and affordability, amongst other characteristics, have attracted not only individuals to the app, but also businesses who view it as an easy, ad-hoc solution for workplace communication. But is WhatsApp actually safe to use at work? Let’s take a look.
What Are The Benefits Of WhatsApp For Workplace Communication?
The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a work culture shift favouring remote and hybrid working patterns. In 2019, just under 4 million UK employees worked remotely, a figure which increased to nearly 60% of all UK workers in the first half of 2021. Furthermore, according to YouGov, one in five people now want to work from home full-time even after the pandemic is over.
As such, the need for workplace communication tools and apps, such as WhatsApp, has increased dramatically over the past few years. WhatsApp provides a quick, free, and simple way for remote teams to engage and collaborate.
Privacy And Security: What WhatsApp Says
On its website, WhatsApp says user privacy is its priority: “Our mission is to connect the world privately by designing a product that’s simple and private. Whether you are sending a personal message to your friends or family, or texting with a business, your communications are secure and you are in control.”
“Conversations in end-to-end encrypted chats are clearly labelled with a gold message; these messages and calls stay between you, and no one else can read or listen to its content, not even WhatsApp.”
WhatsApp also claims that security is part of its DNA: “From day one, we built WhatsApp to help you stay in touch with friends, share vital information during natural disasters, reconnect with separated families, or seek a better life. Some of your most personal moments are shared with WhatsApp, which is why we built end-to-end encryption into our app. When end-to-end encrypted, your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands.”
However, individuals and workplaces alike have experienced issues with both WhatsApp’s security and privacy.
What Others Say About WhatsApp For Workplace Communication
1. Lack Of Security
WhatsApp doesn’t rank highly for secure messaging. The app’s huge user base makes it an obvious target for cybercriminals, with accounts regularly being hacked. Speaking to ITPro, Lookout Security Engineer Burak Agca warns that, on average, a shocking “40% of versions of WhatsApp used by enterprises are vulnerable.”
Furthermore, the app’s group messaging shortcomings introduce significant security issues for businesses. One example of this is if an employee gets a new phone number and their old phone isn’t removed from the WhatsApp chat. In this situation, the new owner of the old phone number, who would most likely be a random stranger, would continue to receive all messages sent in the chat. This is risky for any business, though especially for larger organisations with larger chats that are more difficult to keep on top of.
2. Inadequate Level Of Protection For Personal Data
In the past, WhatsApp has been criticised for its failure to protect its users’ data privacy, with Ireland’s data watchdog fining the company in 2021 for breaching privacy regulations. The £193 million fine was the largest ever from the Irish Data Protection Commission, and the second-highest under European GDPR rules.
Furthermore, the European Court of Justice has ruled that US tech companies, specifically WhatsApp-owner Facebook, do not provide an adequate level of protection of personal data for their European users. By opting to use WhatsApp for business communication, workplaces are potentially exposing themselves to serious data breaches and security risks.
WhatsApp may be appealing to remote or hybrid organisations looking to affordably and easily connect their teams, but there are undoubtedly some risks involved in using the platform for workplace communication. Ultimately, WhatsApp wasn’t specifically designed for business communication and its lack of security and data protection make other communication platforms more attractive to many organisations.