There are a number of obvious reasons why businesses, particularly large, listed or regulated ones, should not use WhatsApp:

  • It is against WhatsApp's terms of use: "You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that: (f) involve any non-personal use of our Services"
  • WhatsApp is not GDPR-compliant
  • It is almost always against these corporations' IT policy to use messaging apps like WhatsApp except for 'private use' and usually only on personal devices.

There are a number of less obvious reasons:

  • Some industries are regulated e.g. the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK enforces audit/archive responsibilities around data and communications that WhatsApp cannot provide.
  • Corporates have no visibility or control over which WhatsApp groups exist, or which of their staff, customers, or other agents are in them. This includes former staff, former contractors or suppliers who will still have access to potentially sensitive corporate information. This data cannot be deleted remotely, nor access revoked.
  • WhatsApp might be 'end to end encrypted' but the automated back ups in the cloud are not. Nor are exported chats. So any corporate information or discussions are far from secure.

And perhaps even less obvious:

  • With a lot of focus on mental wellbeing and work/life balance, it is increasingly considered unacceptable for work communications to intrude overly into the personal lives of staff or others. It is hard to ignore or turn WhatsApp off outside office hours as you may be using it personally. Whereas you could with an app that is just for work.
  • Where WhatsApp is being used for office gossip and social chat, at what point does that overstep into inappropriate behaviour, a form of exclusion or even harassment or bullying? Any data or evidence of such is not under the control of the corporation and can be deleted by the individuals involved.

And yet...

When we talk to corporates they often deny that WhatsApp is being used in their business even when it clearly is. This is perhaps understandable but surely not acceptable, and may be a time bomb waiting to explode.

Not just corporates but nurses, doctors, the police, even the military, are using WhatsApp at work.

Transparency and honesty are needed

We believe that transparency is needed. In some cases perhaps WhatsApp should be recognised and allowed as an official work tool even if it is against WhatsApp's own terms. It is easy to use, works reliably, most people have it, and it is free.

If it is not legal or not appropriate, however, then businesses and other professional organisations need to stop turning a blind eye or pretending that WhatsApp isn't being used, and seek alternatives before something bad blows up in their face.

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