According to research by OnePulse of 500 UK and US professionals between 21-64yrs old just over 42% of WhatsApp users also use it for work / professionally:

Non-personal use is a breach of WhatsApp's terms of service

According to WhatsApp's own terms of use it cannot be used for business:

"WhatsApp is committed to using the resources at its disposal–including legal action–to prevent abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use."

And from 7 Dec 2019 WhatsApp is saying it will take legal action against those using it for non-personal use:

600m WhatsApp users in breach of terms

WhatsApp has around 1.5billion users globally. If circa 40% of those are using WhatsApp professionally for non-personal use that equates to around 600 million WhatsApp user who are unwittingly breaching the terms of service.

Can you use WhatsApp for business?

You can but you must use the WhatsApp Business app and API. As WhatsApp says:  

How is WhatsApp Business different from the usual WhatsApp?

Standard WhatsApp can only be used personally for 'friends and loved ones'. WhatsApp business can be used for business but:

  • You are represented as a business/brand not as an individual
  • It cannot be used within, or across, organisations ("not intended for intracorporate usage") only between a business and customers

How different are WhatsApp Business's terms of service?

Significantly different from the usual, personal, WhatsApp. You should read WhatsApp Business Terms of Service but note, among other things:

  • You cannot use WhatsApp Business in regulated industries ("We make no representations or warranties that our Business Services meet the needs of entities regulated by laws and regulations with heightened confidentiality requirements for personal data, such as healthcare, financial, or legal services entities.")
  • Getting customer permission is your responsibility. ("Company must also secure all necessary rights, consents, and permissions (for example, opt-in) to share its customers’ contact and other personal data with WhatsApp")
  • Under GDPR you become the data controller. (" are the data controller selecting the message recipients and instructing WhatsApp, for the duration of these Business Terms, to process such Personal Data on your behalf as your data processor")
  • Your information will be shared across Facebook ("We may share this information with the Facebook Companies, and we and the Facebook Companies will use all the information we have to develop, operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Business Services, our other services, and the services and products of the Facebook Companies.")
  • You cannot use WhatsApp Business within, or across, organisations only between a business and its customers. ("Our Business Services are not intended for intracorporate usage.")
  • Your data will be transfered to the United States ("Company agrees to the transfer and processing of information that we collect, store, and use under these Business Terms, to the United States and other countries globally where we have or use facilities, service providers, or partners, regardless of where you use our Business Services. You acknowledge that the laws, regulations, and standards of the country in which your information is stored or processed may be different from those of your own country.")
  • Your data will be revealed for a number of reasons ("You agree that WhatsApp may share your information, including Company Content, if...")
  • All risks are yours ("Company agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the WhatsApp Parties from and against all liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses of any kind...")

What should you do if you want to use WhatsApp for business purposes?

You must use WhatsApp Business. However, there are many restrictions and risks to this you should be aware of as noted above.

Many of these are particularly risky for larger organisations because of privacy regulation like GDPR.

And the intended uses are for organisation<>customer only and exclude internal or cross-business use.

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