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[Infographic] The global impact of WhatsApp on multinational businesses

Find out how WhatsApp revolutionized business communication and get insights into the perks and drawbacks of using the platform for sensitive data exchange.

April 13, 2023

Once in a while, a new technological tool emerges to transform the way in which businesses communicate. With over 2.24 billion people connecting to the platform on a monthly basis, WhatsApp has become one of the most popular messenger apps in the world. It not only revolutionized how users interact with each other but also the way in which businesses engage with their customers, from small companies to multinational corporations.

The pros of using WhatsApp for business communication

The platform offers several benefits for businesses that choose to use it as a corporate communication channel. These include immediate engagement, the ability to personalize communication, and offer a high level of convenience. Customers can receive an instant response to their queries, and the interaction feels like a private one-on-one conversation. Additionally, users are likely already familiar with the platform, which eliminates the need to get out of their comfort zone whenever they need to get in touch with a business.

Compliance breaches and the lack of transparency

Along with several benefits, there are also some risks involved in using WhatsApp for business communication. One of the main concerns is security. As WhatsApp conversations are end-to-end encrypted, institutions do not have direct control over how their data is being handled by third-party providers like WhatsApp, which can lead to unexpected compliance breaches.

Organizations worldwide are subject to strict regulatory policies regarding off-channel communications, yet, this doesn’t stop employees from resorting to workarounds in order to maximize efficiency and preserve business continuity. This is perfectly illustrated in the context of a federal US law that requires businesses to maintain detailed records of their electronic messages, which means having complete visibility and control over these communications. JP Morgan learned a compliance lesson the hard way when it was fined $200 million by the SEC and CFTC for allowing employees to use unauthorized business communication applications, circumventing federal record-keeping laws. Similarly, earlier this year, Morgan Stanley penalized some of its employees with hefty fines that ranged from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million. The cause, according to Financial Times, was the misuse of digital messaging platforms like WhatsApp for sensitive information exchange. 

Another risk is the lack of control and visibility over the platform. As a third-party service and a US company, WhatsApp can be subject to blind subpoenas from US authorities, causing them to expose user data to government officials without informing the user. This creates a challenge to ensure transparency, build customer trust, and prevent reputational damage for businesses that use the platform for corporate communication.

The nuances of WhatsApp use in the UAE

With over 7.97 million users, accounting for 80.2% of the country’s population, WhatsApp is the #1 tool used for digital communication in the UAE. This popularity, coupled with its $8.7 billion revenue in 2021, has attracted businesses to incorporate the app’s features for customer engagement, marketing, and sales. It is not uncommon to see the full lifecycle of UAE business deals take place on the WhatsApp platform: from the first touchpoint to due diligence, involving sensitive document exchange, contract closure, and customer support.

What is the issue with using WhatsApp for business communications?

The key problem refers to the lack of transparency and auditability of WhatsApp conversations, files, and voice message exchanges, which inevitably leads to regulatory compliance concerns and failure to build customer trust. 

Check out the infographic below to get a better understanding of the global impact of WhatsApp on multinational businesses.

To learn more about the existing and emerging UAE data protection regulations, associated challenges and ways to tackle them, read our new eBook.

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