WhatsApp for Work: A GDPR Compliance Nightmare Waiting to Happen?

As you juggle the complex web of communications between your frontline workers and headquarters (HQ), you may find the accessibility of WhatsApp tempting for bridging the communication gap.  Yet the question remains, should your employees use WhatsApp for work related correspondence? 

Popular messaging apps might not be as compliant when it comes to data protection and it’s worth considering how using them can put your business at risk too and raises some questions regarding compliance with GDPR.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at the difference between using WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp for personal use, why the use of WhatsApp for internal communications might violate GDPR, and an alternative employee communication platform to WhatsApp: Speakap.

Understanding the difference between WhatsApp for personal use and WhatsApp Business

What is WhatsApp Business?

WhatsApp Business is a platform that enables businesses to interact with their consumers and handle communication effectively. It provides a variety of features and tools for increasing customer involvement, streamlining procedures, and developing strong partnerships. 

WhatsApp Business vs WhatsApp

WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp are two standalone versions of the famous messaging platform, each designed to meet unique demands and use cases.

WhatsApp Business is developed primarily to help small and medium-sized enterprises improve their consumer communication. It provides a variety of features and capabilities designed specifically for business use, allowing companies to develop a professional presence on the platform. Businesses may use WhatsApp to build a company profile that includes vital information like their address, contact information, and website. They can also put up automatic welcome messages, rapid responses, and away messages to provide effective customer service.

WhatsApp, on the other hand, is the app's normal version, which people use for personal chat. It enables users to communicate with friends, family, exchange media files, conduct audio and video conversations, and participate in group chats. WhatsApp features end-to-end encryption, which ensures that messages and calls are private and safe.

WhatsApp Business is primarily designed to facilitate commercial communication and customer relations, whereas WhatsApp is better suited to personal discussions. However, both forms may be utilized by businesses to communicate with their consumers. WhatsApp Business offers extra tools and capabilities to help businesses simplify communication and manage customer questions more efficiently.


  • WhatsApp: Messaging app for personal use (chatting with friends & family).
  • WhatsApp Business: Messaging app designed for businesses to communicate with customers (extra features for business profiles & automated messages).

So, why might the use of WhatsApp on personal phones for internal communication raise GDPR concerns?

First and foremost, using WhatsApp for internal communication involves sharing personal data—such as phone numbers and profile photos—among employees. While explicit consent is not required for processing data with a legitimate work-related purpose, employees generally feel more comfortable when permission is sought. This is not a problem unique to WhatsApp, as any communication service faces similar challenges. Additionally, sharing customer data among employees is permissible based on the necessity for performing contractual obligations. Therefore, it’s important to handle and monitor data sharing carefully to ensure compliance with GDPR.

WhatsApp, while offering end-to-end encryption, poses a higher risk to data breaches and GDPR compliance when used for professional communications on personal devices. This increases the personal liability of employees. For instance:

  • It is up to the person sharing the data to decide which data is necessary to share. Therefore, it’s not just WhatsApp, but any application or website with a chat function, where the responsibility for limiting data sharing and storage lies with the user rather than the platform itself.
  • Tracking consent and data flow can be cumbersome with WhatsApp, making it difficult to demonstrate compliance in the event of a data audit.
  • Moreover, employee phone loss or breaches can lead to sensitive information leaks. WhatsApp is more prone to phishing attacks because it’s an open platform; anyone can get in touch with you as long as they have your phone number.

To sum up:

  1. WhatsApp on Personal vs. Work Phones: Using personal phones for work communication raises compliance issues.
  2. Sensitive Information: Fine for casual chats, not for sensitive work data.
  3. Privacy Measures: WhatsApp offers privacy features, but they must be manually applied.
  4. Centralized Control: Easier to ensure security and compliance with centralized admin controls.
  5. Responsibility: The responsibility for data sharing lies with the user, not the platform.

Of course, employees can still use WhatsApp themselves as long as it’s an unofficial communication channel. However, if it is the official and primary internal communications channel, GDPR requires businesses to protect the personal data of EU residents with whom they interact. If you use WhatsApp for internal communication and don't have an adequate data protection plan in place, you could be subjecting yourself to fines up to 20 million euros or 4% of global annual turnover - whichever is higher.

Read more about 12 Major Pitfalls When Relying on Whatsapp for Internal Communication

If not WhatsApp, then what else?

Speakap is a secure and scalable alternative to WhatsApp for business communication. While WhatsApp may seem like an attractive option due to its popularity and ease of use, it lacks the necessary security, user management, and compliance features that businesses require. Here’s why Speakap is a better option:

  • Data Privacy and Security: WhatsApp has been criticized for its data privacy record and the lack of protection for users’ personal information. In contrast, Speakap offers banking-standard security, with data hosted in ISO 27001 certified data centers and full encryption using AES 256 and TLS 1.2 encryption. This ensures that your internal communication and employee information remain private and secure.
  • Scalability: WhatsApp groups are limited in size, making it difficult to scale internal communications in larger companies. Speakap, on the other hand, offers multi-tenancy with multi-layer data segregation, allowing businesses to communicate company-wide without limitations.
  • User Management: WhatsApp lacks robust user management capabilities, making it challenging for businesses to control access to group chats and remove users when needed.  Speakap provides an Admin Dashboard with role-based permissions, giving businesses full control over user access and permissions, as well as an HR-Sync with all major HR, Payroll and Identity systems for automatic creation and deletion of user accounts.
  • Disjointed Communication: WhatsApp’s design for personal communication can lead to confusion and disjointed conversations in the workplace. Speakap, on the other hand, is specifically built for business communication, offering organized and efficient conversations that enhance productivity.

Get your free copy of our security whitepaper to discover how we handle security at Speakap and ensure the highest standards of data protection for our clients. 

Download the whitepaper now!

Final thoughts

While WhatsApp might seem like the easiest pick for quick messages, the GDPR compliance stakes are high. Navigating the use of WhatsApp for internal communications requires more than just understanding its convenience. It involves a thorough assessment of GDPR compliance, considering privacy, data security, and corporate responsibility. The goal is not just to avoid violating GDPR with your company’s internal communications, but also to foster a secure and compliant communication environment that protects employee data and trust. 

So, does using WhatsApp for internal chats seem worth the risk, or is it time to switch to something that keeps you in the clear? Remember, navigating these decisions isn't just about following rules but ensuring a secure, respectful workplace environment. What’s your move going to be?