WhatsApp Business: What can the business version of WhatsApp do, and what do companies need to heed?

Many people across the world use WhatsApp these days, and it also offers businesses certain advantages. However, there are data privacy issues standing in the way of its use. Find out how to solve these issues and communicate securely with your customers in this post.

Using WhatsApp Business securly
Using WhatsApp Business in a privacy-compliant manner often presents companies with challenges.

Why You Should Use WhatsApp Business

According to Statista, two billion people worldwide use WhatsApp. So, if you use the platform, you can easily reach your target audience via the convenient messenger. Your customers already know how to use it and find it convenient. What’s more, your customers don’t have to download a further app, and the threshold to contact them is lowered. Since WhatsApp completely excludes commercial use, you have to rely on the WhatsApp Business app. But as a company, you should pay attention to a few things to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What is the Difference Between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business?

The WhatsApp Business app is a variant of WhatsApp and offers essentially the same features. The difference between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business is that the business version supports smaller companies in their communication and includes some additional features that the standard WhatsApp does not have.

For example, you can create a short link that allows people to communicate directly with your company via WhatsApp instead of having to additionally enter and store a number. Away and welcome messages can be set up, as well as shortcuts that send specific messages you can create in advance. It’s possible to switch from the standard version to the business version at any time and to also transfer all contacts as well as chats.

Both versions can also be available on the smartphone at the same time. Although two cell phone numbers are then active, it is not necessary to have two SIM cards in the cell phone. An account can also be set up via a landline number.

One more thing to note, there are two different WhatsApp business versions. On the one hand, the WhatsApp Business App described here for smaller companies, and on the other hand, the WhatsApp Business Platform for medium to large companies.

How does WhatsApp Business Work?

To use the WhatsApp Business App, you need to:

  1. Download the app
  2. Create an account
  3. Set up the business profile

Downloading the app works just like with other apps. You go to the relevant app store, search for WhatsApp Business and install it.

Setting Up WhatsApp Business

Create a WhatsApp business account with the WhatsApp Business app

To create a WhatsApp business account, you need to accept the terms of service. Among other things, the terms of use authorize WhatsApp to process personal data and access the phone’s address book. You’ll learn in this article how you can still use the WhatsApp business app in a GDPR-compliant way.

Furthermore, to create an account, you need to provide your company’s phone number and enter the confirmation code you receive. If the number they provide is a landline number, their number can be verified via phone call. After that, you can enter the name of their business and create a profile.

How to Create a WhatsApp Business Profile

After creating your account, you can start editing your profile. This can include important details such as the name, industry, opening hours, and other contact options. It is also possible to create a sync with WhatsApp Business through the Facebook page so that your business information is always the same.

Use WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business Simultaneously

Using the two WhatsApp versions at the same time is of course possible, you don’t need an additional smartphone to use WhatsApp Business, just a phone number or a dual-SIM smartphone. This is possible because both WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business each have their own app and the profiles do not overlap. If you have a dual-SIM smartphone, simultaneous use works as follows:

First, make sure which phone number you normally use WhatsApp with. Then, download the WhatsApp Business app and enter the unused phone number of the other SIM card and confirm it. Now you can use both apps. If you do not have a dual-SIM smartphone, you can still download the WhatsApp Business app additionally. However, when registering, instead of a second mobile number, enter your company’s landline number and confirm it by answering the call.

WhatsApp Business Platform

In addition to the WhatsApp Business app, there is also a WhatsApp Business platform. This offers a few more features, as it is tailored to medium to large companies, but it is also not fully free, and access is more difficult. However, in terms of data, this one is more secure than the other two options, as it doesn’t require an app. Instead, the company account is used together with a marketing tool that takes on the task of sending messages. This means personal data is not stored by WhatsApp, but by the corresponding third-party provider.

Why Data Privacy and WhatsApp Business Are in Conflict

Normally, WhatsApp is allowed to access the user’s address book and also process personal data. However, since companies have to comply with data protection, this is problematic, because they would have to ask all contacts in the address book beforehand whether they agree to this.

If only people are entered in the address book who have also used WhatsApp before and contacted the company themselves, they would have to agree to the conditions beforehand. However, if this is not the case, i.e. if there are people in the address book who do not have WhatsApp or were first contacted by the company via WhatsApp, you cannot be sure whether they have agreed to WhatsApp’s terms and conditions. If you still have these contacts in your address book and grant WhatsApp access to them, you are violating the current data protection regulations.

Ways to Deal with the WhatsApp Business App

The easiest thing to do would be to completely exclude WhatsApp as a means of communication. Since the advantages of instant messaging are considerable and many customers already use WhatsApp, this does not make much sense. In addition, this could lead to a disadvantage when compared to your competitors.

The second option is to create a so-called business container. This is possible for both iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android smartphones and tablets with the help of a mobile device management system. Such a business container separates business data from private data. WhatsApp Business, installed in the business area, can then only access contacts in this area. For contacts in this area, consent for WhatsApp use would then have to be obtained. The private contacts cannot be accessed by WhatsApp Business.

Exactly the opposite is the case for the WhatsApp app, which may be installed on the private side, this cannot access business data. Thus, WhatsApp Business can also be completely prohibited from accessing contacts. Another plus point is that WhatsApp can be installed twice and thus be used both privately and for business. For Android, even WhatsApp can simply be installed twice for this purpose; for iOS (iPhone and iPad), two different apps, WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business are necessary for this.

WhatsApp Business data-protected on your phone

WhatsApp Business in Use with Cortado MDM

Even with purely business devices, the use of WhatsApp can be prevented with an MDM solution, because the admin determines which apps may be installed and which may not.

Since the use of WhatsApp on business devices cannot be prevented in principle, it makes sense to make such a business container available to users. This allows the two data areas to be separated from each other securely and in compliance with GDPR when using a work profile.

The following points are important:

  • Be transparent and educate your customers about how you process their data. Obtain the appropriate authorizations.
  • Use an MDM system to ensure that access to contacts from WhatsApp Business is prevented on Android. Unfortunately, this is currently only possible manually for iPhones and iPads.
  • Then only add contacts who already use WhatsApp to WhatsApp Business.
  • If customers contact you first via WhatsApp, then they already agree to the personal data agreement through WhatsApp anyway. If customers are to be contacted by the business, it is necessary to get consent through the business’s website beforehand.

It is therefore possible to use WhatsApp Business in a data protection compliant manner.

For more information on how to use smartphones and tablets in a GDPR-compliant way, see this whitepaper.