What’s Up with Employees Using WhatsApp?
Author: Leigh Moody, Chief Commercial Officer, Insightful Technology
The eyewatering $125 million fine imposed by SEC upon JPMorgan Chase at the end of last year, left many organisations pausing for thought about how their employees are using messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to conduct business. Further fuel was added to the fire at the start of 2022 when it was revealed that HSBC Holdings was being investigated, by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, regarding its staff use of WhatsApp.
Now it has been disclosed that WhatsApp is being used to share information at the highest level of government in the UK, with the BBC reporting that Prime Minister Boris Johnson receives information via the app. It has prompted Foxglove and the Citizen to bring a legal challenge to the government, arguing that ‘This is unlawful under the Public Records Act of 1958 which requires legal checks to be made on all such messages in case they need to be kept for the public interest.’
The problem for organisations, large or small, public, or private that operate in regulated sectors, is if and how to lawfully and logistically incorporate WhatsApp and other platforms into daily working practices. There are some who may choose to issue a blanket ban on their use for work purposes, but the reality is that the line between work and personal communication has blurred. This was illustrated by an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into officers using WhatsApp on their personal devices to discuss work related matters including sharing operational information and sensitive documents. This was further highlighted in a recent high profile case of Metropolitan Police officers being charged over troubling allegations of sharing inappropriate content via a WhatsApp group..
So, if you can’t stop employees from behaving in a certain way, then what are the options? One step is to define the boundaries, such as the guidance issued by the IOPC. However, as JP Morgan Chase discovered, having policies in place that prohibit the use of WhatsApp for work-related communications didn’t go far enough. The FCA is clear that there needs to be a rigorous monitoring regime in place for the likes of WhatsApp as well as the likes of Signal, Telegram and many more. To illustrate the scale, we (Insightful Technology) collect and record data from more than 120 feeds.
Pre-pandemic many financial organisations would likely have fallen far short of a rigorous monitoring regime, and two-years on, with the shift towards more flexible hybrid working looking set to be a new reality for many, the problem isn’t going to go away any time soon. In fact, it may well be getting worse.
When it comes to implementing or improving an e-comms strategy the adage ‘It is never too late to do the right thing’ rings true. Unless the regulator is already at the door!