What’s Up with the WhatsApp privacy updates and what does it mean for work WhatsApp groups?
Author: Kabelo Komana – Associate Designate
*Supervised by Gugulethu Mthalane – Director
What does this mean for business WhatsApp?
The new updates, according to WhatsApp, will include new options where people will be able to message a business on WhatsApp, and provide further transparency about how WhatsApp collects and uses data. As more people move to in-app shopping, such as offered on Instagram, WhatsApp aims to move in that direction, but they said that this update does not expand their ability to share data with Facebook.
WhatsApp also went on to clarify the confusion surrounding their announcement wherein, as stated above, they emphasised that their applications continue to protect users’ messages with end-to-end encryption. They stated that a user can set their messages to disappear, can download their data and that WhatsApp groups remain private.
The use of WhatsApp groups within the workplace
There has been significant growth in the use of WhatsApp groups in the workplace in recent years, as a way for colleagues to communicate with each other. WhatsApp can be a good way for colleagues to stay in touch and share ideas, particularly when they are working remotely.
With South Africa and the world at large on lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19, companies are turning to WhatsApp as a preferred method of communication because of its convenience. Over the years in South Africa, there has been an observed risk associated with WhatsApp groups in the workplace (not the updated privacy settings) when content from a work WhatsApp group is shared with others in the form of screenshots, either maliciously or to expose some form of discrimination and/or criminal activity. Other issues with work WhatsApp groups are bullying, engaging in abusive behaviour towards colleagues, sharing of offensive or inappropriate material, or material of a discriminatory nature that can lead to claims of harassment and/or discrimination.
WhatsApp has clarified that it has no intention of making group chats public or sharing them across their applications such as Facebook. The same privacy settings that were in place with regards to WhatsApp groups are still in place and employees and employers do not need to worry about group privacy settings as they remain private and these personal chats are end-to-end encrypted, meaning WhatsApp cannot see their content. However, this does not mean that employers need not review their policies and codes of good conduct to safeguard employee relations on platforms such as WhatsApp.
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