Navigating Compliance Risks: Regulatory Agencies and the Use of Messaging Apps

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on July 06, 2023, 6 min read
The dangers of consumer grade messaging apps

Team chat and messaging apps have become an integral part of communication for individuals and businesses around the world as digital transformation has evolved. However, in certain industries, the use of consumer-grade messaging apps is strictly forbidden by regulatory agencies. When it comes to industries such as healthcare, finance, and government, regulatory agencies play a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring data privacy. These agencies set forth guidelines and regulations that govern the usage of consumer-grade messaging apps within these industries, aiming to protect the integrity and confidentiality of communication.


Failure to comply with these regulations can have major consequences. Legal repercussions may include hefty fines or even legal action, as regulatory agencies are empowered to enforce compliance through audits and investigations.


In this blog, we will explain why consumer-grade messaging apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal, etc, are a major risk to an enterprise.



Regulatory Agencies and Prohibited Messaging App Usage

When it comes to communication protocols, regulatory agencies hold a significant role in shaping the landscape of companies that rely on secure and confidential communication. These regulations directly impact various industries. Industries such as healthcare, finance, and government are among the most heavily regulated when it comes to communication protocols. The sensitive nature of the information shared in these industries necessitates strict regulations to safeguard data privacy, prevent unauthorized access, and ensure compliance with legal obligations.


TL;DR: Don’t use WhatsApp at work.


For instance, in the healthcare industry, regulatory agencies like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States impose strict regulations on transmitting and storing patient health information. These regulations dictate the protocols and security measures that healthcare providers must adopt to protect sensitive patient data. You don’t want to be sharing X-Rays over iMessage.


In the financial sector, regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) enforce rules regarding the secure communication of financial information, ensuring that sensitive data remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access or data breaches. You can’t share stock sell information over Signal.


Each agency has its own set of guidelines that companies operating in these industries must follow and abide by. These guidelines may include requirements for encryption, data retention, secure transmission, and access control policies



End to End Encryption


Now, let’s address the elephant in the room of end-to-end encryption (E2E), which has been a subject of debate in the context of regulated industries. While E2E encryption is widely touted for its security benefits, it brings additional risks in the workplace.


E2E encryption ensures that only the intended recipients can decrypt and access the content of a message. While this level of privacy and security is desirable in many situations, it poses challenges for regulatory agencies that require access to communication data in specific circumstances. For instance, in the event of an investigation related to financial fraud or a legal case involving sensitive information, regulatory agencies may need access to decrypted data to fulfill their responsibilities. With consumer-grade messaging apps like WhatsApp and iMessage, these communications will be locked behind an account that security and legal teams cannot access.


This is not to say that encryption should be abandoned entirely. Instead, a balance must be struck between privacy and the requirements of regulatory agencies your industry abides by. Encryption protocols that allow for lawful access, with appropriate safeguards to protect privacy, can help strike this balance. Check out one of our other blogs for more data privacy tips.


Use a messaging app that protect people and data against cyberthreats to give you peace of mind


Legal and Financial Repercussions of Non-Compliance

When it comes to compliance issues with messaging apps and regulations, companies face a multitude of legal consequences that can have a lasting impact on their operations and bottom line. Companies that fail to comply with these regulations can find themselves in hot water, facing legal battles, financial charges, and reputational damage.


One of the most immediate consequences of non-compliance is the imposition of fines and penalties by regulatory agencies. These fines can quickly erode a company’s financial resources and disrupt its operations. Along with fines, regulatory agencies can take legal action against non-compliant companies. This can involve initiating investigations, audits, or even litigation. Regulatory agencies may seek legal action to revoke licenses or permits.


Additionally, non-compliance can lead to long-term reputational damage. News of non-compliance where private data ended up in consumer-grade messaging can spread rapidly through social media and the news, hurting a company’s image and eroding customer trust. Trust is a lot easier to lose than it is to gain.


To lower the odds of these legal and financial risks, companies must prioritize compliance with messaging apps and communication regulations.



Compliance Strategies and Best Practices

Ensuring compliance with messaging app regulations is an essential responsibility for companies operating in industries where secure, confidential, and transparent communication is paramount. Here are a few tips:

  1. Build Strong Internal Policies and Procedures

    To achieve (and stay in) compliance, companies must establish robust policies and procedures that align with their communications regulations. These policies should clearly outline the guidelines and protocols for communication, emphasizing the use of approved messaging apps and the security measures that must be implemented.

  2. Conduct Regular Audits

    Regular compliance audits are important to identify any gaps or areas of non-compliance within an organization. These audits should evaluate the usage of messaging apps, assess adherence to internal policies, and identify potential vulnerabilities in communication protocols. Many of these audits will need to be conducted in a way that asks employees a lot of questions about how they do their jobs.

  3. Implement Training and Education Programs

    Employee education and training play a pivotal role in ensuring compliance with messaging app regulations. Employees should receive comprehensive training on the approved messaging apps, their features, and the importance of adhering to internal policies and procedures. This training should include the reasons they can’t use WhatsApp, Signal, or iMessage at work. People are familiar enough with these apps that if you communicate the reason, they’ll understand.

  4. Foster a Culture of Compliance

    Compliance is not just about following rules; it is about creating a culture that prioritizes the security and integrity of communication. Companies should continually reinforce and train on the need to avoid the use of consumer-grade messaging apps – despite how easy it might be to send an X-Ray or legal document over WhatsApp or iMessage.

Wrap up

To avoid the risk and damage that consumer-grade messaging apps will bring, companies need to prioritize compliance and adhere to the regulations set forth by the regulatory agencies they follow and are governed by. This involves ONLY using the message and team chat app that meets regulatory requirements.


Companies should stay informed about any updates or changes in regulations and engage with industry associations to learn about the best solutions and strategies to stay compliant.


Wrapping up, compliance with messaging app regulations is not an option but a necessity for companies operating in industries where secure and confidential but transparent communication is essential. By understanding the regulations, implementing compliant solutions, and fostering a culture of compliance, companies can protect their operations, maintain customer trust, and avoid the potential risks associated with non-compliance.


Remember, compliance is an ongoing effort that requires vigilance and dedication. By staying informed, adhering to regulations, and using appropriate solutions, companies can navigate the complex regulatory landscape and safeguard the integrity of their communication channels. The simple fact is that allowing employees to use consumer-grade apps like WhatsApp and iMessage is a risk not worth taking.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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