The WhatsApp Dilemma: New Privacy Mandate Threatens Enterprise Privacy, Security and Control

Anurag Lal Anurag Lal, President and CEO of Infinite Convergence.

In order to truly understand the WhatsApp dilemma plaguing the enterprise today, we must first take a look back on where it all started. WhatsApp’s original founders envisioned the app to be a secure, consumer-based messaging service with a base premise for users to avoid costly service prices for SMS messaging, especially in Europe. The platform was never meant to leveraged for business communication but as the popularity of mobile messaging gained traction, WhatsApp quickly proliferated the workplace.

As the app gained traction it was becoming immensely popular with its user base for social interaction and exchange of imagery – which was the base promise that Facebook was delivering its end-users. Feeling threatened by this competition, Facebook stepped in on the defense and acquired the company for $19B. This led to contention between WhatsApp’s original founders, who never believed that that app should be leveraged as an advertising platform, and Mark Zuckerberg, who found the opportunity to monetize WhatsApp’s user base to be very attractive.

WhatsApp’s Dangerous Evolution

After the departure of its original founders, under the new ownership of Zuckerberg, WhatsApp was quickly incorporated into the fold of Facebook’s business model. Unfortunately, the base premise of Facebook’s business model has always been to mine customer data as a means to push its own revenue model through advertising. After the initial acquisition, Facebook announced its plan to integrate all of its consumer messaging platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, to allow for secure, unified messaging across the applications.

Most recently, WhatsApp announced new terms to its privacy policy for its 2 billion users which has subsequently, and rightfully so, caused a great deal of backlash among end users. The terms, which users are forced to accept if they desire to continue using the app, now gives WhatsApp the ability to share the data it collects from an end user with the larger Facebook network. This includes other platforms it owns, like Instagram, and it can share the data whether you have profiles on these other platforms or not. Previously, the sharing of a user’s data with Facebook was optional, but with this update it is now a requirement. This move is a clear, disciplined approach to monetize WhatsApp leveraging the same business model and tactics they used for Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook’s massive user base is undoubtedly attractive for businesses who have become increasingly more interested in leveraging these messaging platforms as a means to communicate directly with consumers. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious to Facebook’s business and consumer user base that the company provides no promise of privacy and it’s been made clear by Facebook that their intention is to leverage its existing business model to propagate advertising utilizing WhatsApp user’s data.

WhatsApp’s Threat to the Enterprise

When considering the company whose business model is predicated on monetizing user privacy and data, it is easy to see why Facebook is implementing terms like this in WhatsApp’s privacy policy. However, this comes at even a greater cost for enterprises when stakeholders are leveraging consumer-grade platforms like WhatsApp to communicate.

Mobile messaging in the workplace became immensely popular even before WhatsApp made its debut. The acceleration of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the workplace was fueled by employees’ need for fast, instantaneous communication. When WhatsApp launched it did an exceptional job providing feature functionality and ease of use with a promise of end-to-end encryption, which accelerated its proliferation of the enterprise.

We know that mobile messaging is here to stay, and NetSfere is at the forefront of its future. We always viewed mobile messaging as a productivity tool, but we needed the data to prove it, so we recently worked on a research study with 451 Research to really understand the impact of mobile messaging within the enterprise. The Report found 56% of smartphone owners use their mobile device at work and that consumer messaging apps including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS account for 86% of mobile work communication – which is hugely dangerous to the enterprise, especially in the wake of WhatsApp new privacy policy updates that can put the enterprise’s intellectual property at risk. The study also found that when mobile messaging is deployed through the enterprise on an enterprise-ready platform there is between a 5-20% increase in productivity gain per employee within that organization.

Ditch WhatsApp: Equip Your Workforce with NetSfere

Even before this latest privacy policy update, enterprises were at an incredible risk if their employees were using WhatsApp, and these new terms are yet another example of why it should be avoided at all costs. It’s time for the enterprise to wake up, smell the roses and understand that this is a real problem that needs to be addressed immediately before it causes long-term damages to your business.

WhatsApp has always promised end-to-end encryption of the conversations transmitted across its platform, but they have been very quiet about what happens to your information as it rests within WhatsApp’s server. With WhatsApp’s ties to Facebook, which is known to abuse user data, we know that the company was ultimately mining that data as a means to monetize the user base.

NetSfere takes an enterprise-friendly approach to secure, controlled, compliant and collaborative mobile messaging for the workplace. NetSfere offers contextual, relevant, instantaneous messaging, voice and video communications that are regulatory compliant and encrypted in real-time. The platform is deployed and fully controlled by an enterprise IT organization across a public or private cloud implementation ensuring security of all proprietary data while remaining regulatory compliant. NetSfere’s feature functionality is by far superior to any other consumer and enterprise-grade platform on the market and can easily be deployed to thousands of end users in a matter of minutes to provide a friction-free user experience that parallels and even improves the WhatsApp experience.

Now is the time to take action! Don’t put your business at risk, contact us today.

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