The problem with social media apps

June 22, 2020

Communicating in the ‘new normal’

As restrictions ease, local authorities and other organisations are reviewing the information security implications of practices adopted in the early days of lockdown. What was understandable then may now be starting to store up problems for the future around safeguarding and data security not to mention appropriate recording and storage of conversations.

Now we are past the early stages of lockdown and social isolation it is time to reconsider the safety of our communication channels with children. The rapid change to working from home meant that many had briefly to adjust their perspective on risk and mitigation.

We have heard of many organisations turning to popular apps as a way to maintain contact with vulnerable children. While this was understandable at the start, the use of digital tools such as WhatsApp and Facebook now needs urgent review.

So what’s the problem with social media platforms?

Did you know –

  • Most social media services have their servers outside the UK, whereas data privacy regulations require that children’s sensitive information must be stored on UK servers.
  • Some, such as WhatsApp, require the young person to be 16 or over to sign up for an account. For others there are clear accepted age recommendations (see more information here).
  • Some apps use ‘end to end’ encryption, which means that messages being sent and received are protected from attack. However once downloaded (ie you have read the message) the data is only as safe as the device (phone) it is held on.

There is also the issue of where children’s sensitive data can end up and the uses to which it could be made. Any back-up copies made of WhatsApp messages tend to be stored by Google which, alongside Facebook that owns WhatsApp, is known to sell personal data for targeted advertising.

Safe and secure channels

We have to find ways of ensuring that children have safe and secure channels to communicate with the practitioners who are there to support them. The communications between worker and young person are important and should be properly recorded and stored.

Information security is at the heart of Mind Of My Own. Since 2015 we have been accredited with the international standard for information security, ISO27001. Information security and data privacy are fully embedded in all our practices and we are happy to share our learning or support your discussions around practice.