The company claims that at first sight WhatsApp’s business app appears GDPR compliant because - unlike the regular app - it does not request access to a user’s contact information.
However, YourBusinessNumber says these steps need to be implemented by the agency using WhatsApp and must also include other requirements, such as allowing consumers the right to be forgotten, while keeping a record of all data obtained.
In any case, the study shows that only 15 per cent of property businesses using WhatsApp use the Business application - 77 per cent use the regular app, while eight per cent use a mix of the two.
“It’s also important to note that to be fully compliant, there must be specific reference to WhatsApp communications within a company’s GDPR policy, but doing so does not make a business compliant across other communication channels” says the tech firm in a statement.
YourBusinessNumber found that 60 per cent of property professionals stated their company’s opt-in consent did not specifically include the use of WhatsApp communications.
Half of those surveyed also stated that they did not provide an initial welcome message via the app clearly explaining how they use data or providing an opt-in option.
Some 56 per cent also failed to offer a ‘Right to be Forgotten’ above and beyond the consumer's ability to block them on the app.
And 40 per cent also stated they did not carry out these communications via a secure device, a secure network, or both, while 89 per cent stated their company did not record any of the personal data being obtained via WhatsApp.
YourBusinessNumber co-founder George Lineker says:“GDPR compliance can be a minefield to navigate at the best of times, but when you add the fact that technology continues to rapidly evolve the way we communicate with our customer base, it’s hardly surprising that many property professionals aren’t completely aware of their obligations, particularly where the use of WhatsApp is concerned.
“WhatsApp is becoming our second, unofficial inbox and it’s the preferred method of communication for many customers and working professionals alike.”
Introduced in 2018, GDPR - or the General Data Protection Regulation - was designed to give consumers more control over their personal data, allowing them to choose who is allowed to hold it and how they are allowed to use it.
Craig Vile, director at PropTech supplier The ValPal Network, says there are wider implications beyond data security.
"Here is something else to consider as a business owner; when you allow your team to communicate to your clients and prospects on their personal devices, apart from the GDPR implications, you have totally lost control. Lost control of what is being said between your team and your client/prospect as you can’t see it. And lost control of your database! If a team member decides to move on to one of your competitors, they take all the information on their device with them!"
He adds: "WhatsApp is a very powerful tool, when used correctly within any business, and whilst the property sector is a long way behind other industries, it will become one of the main sources of communication between agent and client in the very near future. Making sure you are ready for this and having a single platform which allows communication from multiple channels is the way forward. It’s transparent (business owners and management can see the conversations), secure and efficient."
Vile says his company's ChatPal Premium offers a solution that includes WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and LiveChat within a single dashboard.
*The ValPal Network is owned by Angels Media, publisher of Letting Agent Today and other Today industry news websites.