WhatsApp ‘Privacy Not Included Ultimatum’ Shines a Spotlight on the Business Imperative for Secure Collaboration

WhatsApp recently issued what amounts to a ‘privacy not included ultimatum’ in a notice of planned privacy policy updates to its two billion users. The resulting backlash reflects growing concern about the data privacy and security of consumer-grade messaging apps and increasing awareness of the business imperative to secure communication and collaboration.

A recent 451 Research report noted that the WhatsApp privacy backlash is a wake-up call for secure enterprise messaging and collaboration. The report also pointed out that “the use of consumer over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps in the workplace has remained an ongoing issue for several years; however, the shift to remote work resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak makes this an even more urgent issue. The backlash experienced by WhatsApp over privacy concerns should prompt organizations to evaluate their use of messaging and collaboration technologies.”

The privacy weakening move by WhatsApp, which stated that the app could share users’ information such as their phone number, location and contacts with its parent company Facebook, runs directly counter to growing consumer sentiment for more stringent approaches to data privacy and security compliance practices and standards.

Pew Research found that 81% of the public believe they have very little or no control over data collected and the same percentage believe the potential risks of companies collecting data about them outweigh the benefits. Consumers also don’t believe there are adequate safeguards when it comes to data privacy and security. According to 451 Research’s Voice of the Connected User Landscape: Connected Customer, Trust & Privacy survey “only 23% of respondents believe that current levels of regulation surrounding consumer data privacy and protection (e.g., GDPR, CCPA) are adequate, while 69% are at least somewhat likely to support federal regulation of data privacy in the U.S.”

More and more data privacy regulations like these are evolving across the globe and fueling the business imperative for secure communication and collaboration. Currently, 66% of countries have legislation in place to secure the protection of data privacy and 10% of countries have legislation in draft relating to this issue.

The shift to remote work is also elevating awareness of the need to enable secure enterprise messaging and collaboration. A 451 Research Voice of the Enterprise: Information Security, Organizational Dynamics 2020 survey, revealed that nearly three out of four (74%) respondents are somewhat or very concerned about the level of security in the collaboration tools that remote workers are currently using.

Privacy and security gaps in consumer-grade messaging tools like WhatsApp are driving enterprises to abandon these apps in favor of platforms with superior data privacy and security protection like NetSfere. With NetSfere, privacy and security are not only baked into terms of service with a strict no data collection approach but built into the platform itself.

Contributing Computerworld columnist Evan Schuman commenting on the implications of WhatsApp privacy policy changes said, “if Facebook can’t maintain the discipline to properly protect messaging data, maybe it’s for the best that they push their clients into the arms of [a] messaging app that will.”

The business imperative for secure communication and collaboration comes down to the fact that enterprises with strong security and data privacy practices own a competitive advantage over organizations that don’t. When it comes to protecting data privacy and security, locking down communication and collaboration is critical. It’s not an ultimatum, just a business imperative.

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