This is an opinion piece written by Jon Beech from Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network, who also moderates the LMP website. In case it’s not clear, Leeds Migration Partnership are not endorsing a particular app.
If you’re using Whatsapp for work, you’re probably breaking the law and you need to find an alternative. LMP are encouraging orgs who use Whatsapp to agree on a single alternative app, so it doesn’t get confusing for clients, volunteers or organisations.
Many organisations use Whatsapp as a way of communicating with clients and volunteers. It enables people to send text messages for free, to groups of people; it’s helpful, widely used, convenient, effective and simple. It’s also the most widely used messenger app in the world.
What’s the problem?
The bad news is that unless you are very careful*, Whatsapp is not compliant with GDPR: it does not comply with recent changes to the data protection laws. If you want a technical explanation of why this is you can read one here.
This means if you are using it at work to communicate with volunteers or clients this could get you into serious trouble with the Information Commissioners Office .
So we can’t use secure messenger apps like this then?
Yes, you can. There are some excellent free alternatives which are GDPR compliant, or at least – in particular:
So which one is best?
This is a hard question to answer. The best option will be a combination of free, GDPR compliant, secure, and popular.
A full list of popular secure messaging apps and their various security strengths and weaknesses can be found at https://www.securemessagingapps.com/.
To save you time – according to this, Signal and Threema come out as the most secure free options.
But there are many other factors to consider factors including
- how many people in your networks are likely to use it/install it on their phones,
- simplicity of use, and
- whether or not you can use it on a desktop as well as a laptop.
Currently Signal has been downloaded 230k times from the Google Play Store. Threema has been downloaded 52k times.
So what should my organisation do?
If you currently use Whatsapp at work, you need to think about an alternative that is GDPR compliant. You may want to ask around other orgs who also use Whatsapp and see what they are thinking. Whatever you do, you’ll probably want to stop using Whatsapp.
Why are LMP posting about this?
We think that coordinating a move away from Whatsapp to the same alternative app will be less disruptive for clients, volunteers and organisations. The worst case scenario is that we all start installing/using different apps and everyone gets confused.
LMP are currently discussing this with Voluntary Action Leeds, and other organisations across the region. We’ll also be discussing this at the next LMP Strategy Group, and seeking opinions from our members. If you have any questions, queries or opinions on this, please get in touch with Jon to let him know what you think.
It’s massively unlikely that VAL (or any org) will endorse one particular app in public, but we hope this document is helpful in helping your organisation to decide which one you want to use. It would be great if we could all reach a consensus.**
*ie unless each work-user disables the sharing of their phone’s address book data within Whatsapp
**FWIW, LASSN, the organisation I lead, is likely to end up using Signal.