Should I use WhatsApp at work?

By Jim Preen, Director of Crisis Management at YUDU

Header Image by Gemma Smith, Graphic Designer at YUDU and Jim Preen

Our admittedly rather jokey flowchart hopefully makes the point that while WhatsApp is a fantastic app for chatting with friends and family it falls short of being a secure business communication channel, particularly during an emergency.

Germany’s data privacy chief Ulrich Kelber recently told federal bodies not to use WhatsApp. The reason for this instruction was concern over the flow of metadata from WhatsApp to other Facebook companies of which WhatsApp and Instagram are part.

Kelber said: ‘Just by sending messages, metadata is delivered to WhatsApp every time.’

This should be a concern for all organisations, because while conversations on WhatsApp are encrypted, the data flow will likely mean Facebook will know your identity and who you’re talking to. This is valuable information which the parent company can monetize when helping advertisers target your Facebook and Instagram accounts.

If lawyers are talking with high net worth clients on WhatsApp, they may unwittingly provide valuable metadata that can help advertisers on Facebook target wealthy audiences. Essentially, you have to ask how else can WhatsApp make money? The answer is it can’t unless it helps the Facebook money making machine.

If a company demands their employee use WhatsApp, they are in effect forcing them to share some of their activities with Facebook.

Remember, on WhatsApp there’s no corporate oversight, no control over chat group administration and no way to access information unless individual users are forthcoming. Users can of course delete chats and groups meaning WhatsApp is of little use to a post-incident review.

Communication in a crisis is best done on a purpose-built platform not a social media chat application that has, at its heart, a very different purpose.

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