Workplace WhatsApp usage still common despite privacy concerns

While the GAA has implemented a ban for its clubs, a recent survey showed 41pc of UK workers use the messaging app for business purposes.

WhatsApp is continuing to cause problems for businesses and organisations, as a recent survey shows. Research from business messaging app Guild, which surveyed more than 1,200 people in the UK in January 2020, suggested that 41pc of UK workers admit to using WhatsApp for work purposes. This figure rises to more than half for workers over the age of 45.

A smaller survey from CCS Insight in 2018 also highlighted the growing level of WhatsApp usage at work, showing the messaging app to be the most widely used mobile app in business.

This goes against the recommendations and policies of many organisations, including the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Ireland, due to concerns about GDPR surrounding WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook.

While the GAA’s recommendation to its clubs has been to steer clear of WhatsApp for official purposes since 2018, the organisation had to urge its clubs against using the messaging app at the end of January 2020.

A danger to data

The doubling down of this particular policy is an important move, as asking members or employees to join WhatsApp means asking them to submit personal information, such as phone numbers or personal profile images, to a potentially large group of people they may not know very well.

Couple that with the fact that sharing your data with WhatsApp means sharing your data with Facebook, which has faced controversies around its data privacy practices. And both of these concerns don’t even take into account the potential data breaches that can happen, which are becoming more common every year.

David Naylor, partner at law firm Wiggin, said businesses are taking risks if they allow employees to use consumer messaging apps that operate completely outside their governance, “making it impossible to protect company data or comply with their own data protection obligations”.

Companies that use WhatsApp groups need to review how they’re used and consider following the GAA’s lead in banning the its use for official purposes altogether. In a statement from the organisation, it reminded its clubs “to ensure and promote compliance with data protection legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act”.

The GAA is even developing its own verifiable communication app, which it’s hopping to have ready for the summer, and while this might not be feasible for all companies and organisations, all companies will have a responsibility to users, employees and consumers to protect their data.

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