Featured Article : WhatsApp Updates

Here we look at some of the latest WhatsApp updates and the value and benefits they deliver to users.

Search Conversations By Date For Android 

The first of three new updates of significance for WhatsApp is the “search by date” function for individual and group chats on Android devices. Previously, this function had been available on other platforms (iOS, Mac desktop and WhatsApp Web).

As featured on Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg’s WhatsApp channel (Meta owns WhatsApp), WhatsApp users on Android can now search for a chat on a particular date (not just within a range). For example, one-on-one or group chat details can be date searched by tapping on the contact or the group name, tapping on the search button, and then tapping the calendar icon (right-hand side of the search box), and selecting the individual date. This feature is likely to deliver a better user experience by giving greater precision and control and potentially saving time in locating specific messages.

Privacy Boost From User Profile Change 

Another potentially beneficial boost to the privacy aspect of what is already an end-to-end encrypted messaging app is (in the beta version) closing the loophole on sharing profile pictures without consent, impersonation, and harassment by preventing users from taking screenshots within the app. If users try to screenshot a profile picture, for example, WhatsApp now displays a warning message. Although the ability to download profile pictures was stopped 5 years ago, it was still possible to take screenshots. Closing this loophole in the latest update should, therefore, contribute to greater user privacy and safety.

Minimum Age Lowered To 13 

One slightly more controversial change to WhatsApp’ T&C’s’s terms and conditions however is the lowering of the minimum age of users in Europe (and the UK) to 13 from 16. This brings the service in line with its minimum age rules in the US and Australia, and the move by WhatsApp was taken in response to new EU regulations, namely the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and to ensure a consistent minimum age requirement globally. The two new regulations have been introduced both to tackle illegal and harmful activities online and the spread of disinformation, and to help steer large online platforms toward behaving more fairly.

In addition to the minimum age change, WhatsApp is also updating its Terms of Service and Privacy Policies to add more details about what is or is not allowed on the messaging service and to inform users about the EU-US Data Privacy Framework. The framework is designed to provide reliable mechanisms for personal data transfers between the EU and the US in a way that’s compliant and consistent with both EU and US law, thereby ensuring data protection.

Criticism 

However, although the minimum age change (which may sound quite young to many parents) will be good for WhatsApp by expanding its user base and good for users by expanding digital inclusion and family connectivity, it has also attracted some criticism.

For example, the fact that there’s no checking/verification of how old users say they are (i.e. it relies on self-declaration of age and parental monitoring) has led to concerns that more reliable methods are needed. The concern, of course, also extends to children younger than 13 accessing online platforms (e.g. social media) despite the set age limits.

In Meta’s (WhatsApp’s) defence, however, it already protects privacy with end-to-end encryption and has resisted calls and pressure for government ‘back doors’. It has also taken other measures to protect young users. These include, for example, the ability to block contacts (and report problematic behaviour), control over group additions, the option to customise privacy settings, and more.

Competitors 

Regarding compliance with new EU regulations, the European Commission has been actively engaging with large online platforms and search engines, including Snapchat, under the Digital Services Act (DSA). Also, given the widespread impact of these regulations on digital platforms and their emphasis on data privacy and security, it is likely that Signal (a competitor), and other messaging and social media platforms, are taking steps to align with these new requirements.

Some people may also remember that Snapchat came under scrutiny last summer from the UK’s data regulator to determine if it is effectively preventing underage users from accessing its platform. The investigation was in response to concerns about Snapchat’s measures to remove children under 13, as UK law required parental consent for processing the data of children under this age.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The latest WhatsApp updates, alongside the broader implications of new EU and UK regulations, herald potentially significant shifts for businesses, messaging app users, and the industry at large. These changes, encompassing enhanced search functionalities, privacy safeguards, and adjustments to user age limits, will reshape some user experiences and offer both challenges and opportunities.

The “search by date” function for Android users should enhance user convenience and accessibility, save time, facilitate precise and efficient message retrieval, plus improve user engagement and satisfaction. Businesses leveraging WhatsApp for customer service or internal communications, for example, could find this feature particularly beneficial, i.e. by enabling quicker access to pertinent information, and streamlined interactions.

The extra privacy enhancements essentially reflect a growing industry-wide focus on user security and digital safety and will strengthen individual privacy (always welcome). They also emphasise the importance of user-consent and control over personal information and should remind businesses of the need to prioritise and manage user data both in line with (evolving) regulatory standards and today’s consumer expectations.

The adjustment of WhatsApp’s minimum user age in Europe and the UK presents a bit more of a nuanced landscape. While aiming to broaden digital inclusion and connectivity, this change also highlights the complexities of age verification and online safety. Messaging and other platforms, however, must find ways to navigate these complexities, ensuring compliance while fostering a safe and inclusive digital environment for younger users.

The broader context of the DSA and DMA, along with similar regulatory efforts in the UK, signal the transformative period that digital platforms are now in and although we can all see the benefit of curtailing harmful online activities, there’s also an argument for resisting pressure to go as far as giving governments back doors (thereby destroying the privacy and exposing to other risks). Messaging apps and social media platforms, including WhatsApp and its competitors (e.g. Snapchat, Signal, and others) have known regulations were coming, probably expect more in future, and are now having to adapt to enable compliance and retain trust while introducing other features valued for users at the same time.

Businesses using apps like WhatsApp (which also has a specific business version) are likely to already value its privacy features, e.g. its end-to-end encryption, for data protection. As such, they are unlikely to oppose any more helpful privacy-focused, or improved user experience changes, as long as they don’t interfere with the ease of use of the app (or result in extra costs).

Tech Insight : Ways To Use ‘WhatsApp Business’ To Help Your Business

In this insight, we look at some of the many ways you can use ‘WhatsApp Business’ to boost your marketing and connect with customers to provide a more personalised service.

What Is WhatsApp Business? 

WhatsApp Business is a version of the popular encrypted app that was introduced in January 2018 which is specifically focused on the needs of business and is designed for small and medium business owners.  It’s free to download use the app but if you want the free WhatsApp Messenger app (which many businesspeople already use) and the Business version on the same phone, you will need to use and verify a separate phone number, e.g. a virtual number.

For larger businesses (50+ users) WhatsApp offers a premium, paid-for Enterprise version – WhatsApp Cloud.

The Key Benefits of Using WhatsApp Business For Your Business Communications

Some of the key benefits of using WhatsApp Business for business communications include:

– It’s cost-effective, i.e. it’s free for small businesses to use and therefore reduces costs related to customer service phone calls and traditional SMS.

– It offers businesses a platform to have real-time, direct conversations with customers and has global reach (180+ countries).

– It has end-to-end encryption, meaning it’s secure and private between the business and the customer.

– You can share many different kinds of media (rich media), e.g. images, videos, documents, and other media to provide product details, answer queries, or offer support.

– Conversations with customers (and other stakeholders) are organised in chats that can be easily categorised and filtered.

– It enables automated greetings, away messages, and quick replies, thereby allowing businesses to respond promptly, even when not actively managing the account.

– A dedicated business profile provides customers with essential details such as business hours, location, and website.

– Businesses can receive a green verified badge, assuring customers they’re communicating with a genuine business.

– It can be integrated with CRM tools and other business systems to streamline your operations.

Personalised Service Is Valued By Customers 

WhatsApp Business enables a more personalised services and there are many studies showing that consumers / customers value a more personalised service.  For example:

– Epsilon’s “The Power of Me” Study (2018) revealed that 80 per cent of customers said they’re more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalised experiences.

– SmarterHQ’s Privacy & Personalisation Report (2019) showed that 72 per cent of consumers said they only engage with marketing messages that are tailored to their interests, i.e. people may be concerned about privacy but they still value personalisation.

– Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” Report (2020/2021) where 66 per cent of customers said they expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 52 per cent said they expect offers to always be personalised.

What’s Different About WhatsApp Business? 

Some of the key features and their benefits that WhatsApp Business offers that the normal free version doesn’t include:

– A Business Profile that allows companies to present professional information such as business name, description, address, phone number, and website, enhancing trust and credibility.

– Automated messages, which enable timely communication with customers by scheduling greetings or responses, enhancing customer experience and reducing manual work.

– Quick replies, thereby facilitating faster response times for common queries, (enhancing customer service efficiency).

– WhatsApp Web with landline phone number, thereby offering the flexibility to communicate from a desktop even without a mobile phone (catering to businesses’ varied communication needs).

– Chatbot integration. With AI now playing a key role in many businesses, this feature enables businesses to instantly respond even outside business hours or during peak times, effectively allowing continuous customer support.

– Label conversation, which, as previously mentioned, assists in organising and segmenting contacts for better tracking and targeted communication.

– QR Codes and short links. QR codes are now so useful and widely used that most of us have a QR code app on our phone, and they’re tipped to totally replace bar codes in retail. This feature simplifies the customer’s process of initiating contact, promoting ease of access.

– The Broadcast feature gives businesses the ability to send out mass messages for updates or promotions, thereby facilitating efficient communication with larger audiences.

– Catalog provides a way to showcase products and services directly within the app, streamlining the purchase process and providing detailed information.

– The WhatsApp Business API allows larger businesses to integrate WhatsApp with their existing systems, thereby offering personalised messaging, chatbots, and analytics.

Examples of Ways To Use WhatsApp Business For Your Business 

Here are a few simple examples of ways you can use the various WhatsApp Business features to improve your relationship with customers (and other stakeholders) with a view to boosting profits:

– With Group Chat you can facilitate team discussions, event organisation, and information dissemination.

– Making good use of One-to-One Chat can be a way to help build and maintain strong relationships with individual clients or customers.

– As mentioned previously, using the Broadcast Message feature can allow you to efficiently send news or announcements to a broad audience without recipients knowing who else received it.

– Videos and voice calls offer cost-effective real-time communication and are especially beneficial for international business relations.

– Being able to present a complete business profile can enhance your business credibility and trust.

– Using QR codes or clickable links can be a way to direct customers to the business’s WhatsApp.

– Auto-response enables you to address customer queries even when offline, preventing long waiting times.

– WhatsApp Business enable you to engage after a sale and foster loyalty by sending personalised product recommendations.

– The CRM Integration allows you to provide even more highly personalised services (which are valued by customers) by understanding the customer better.

– Collecting feedback through WhatsApp can provide valuable insights which can help businesses improve and grow.

– Promptly addressing customer concerns and handling questions establishes professionalism for your business in the minds of customers.

– Using notifications can keep customers updated on promotions and offers.

– By sharing content, you can establish authority in the industry, e.g. by sharing insightful content, thereby fostering trust.

Using the WhatsApp Business API 

Using the WhatsApp API, which is essentially a tool for large-scale business communication using automated messages, chatbots, and templates can bring the benefits of cost-effective communication, the use of pre-approved templates, automated responses through chatbots, and enhanced customer engagement.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

In essence, WhatsApp Business offers various tools that businesses can leverage to enhance their communication, foster relationships, and personalise customer interactions, which in turn can lead to improved customer satisfaction and business growth.

WhatsApp Business is more than just another communication tool, it’s a paradigm shift for small businesses. Customers today want to feel valued, not just as a transaction, but as partners in a shared ‘journey’ so by offering real-time interactions, businesses can create experiences that are more genuine and resonant.

One of the platform’s most important implications is in its democratisation of marketing. For example, traditional advertising avenues can be costly and often out of reach for smaller businesses. WhatsApp Business provides an avenue for these businesses to connect directly with their customer base.

In a digital environment full of risks and scams, trust has become a pivotal currency in today’s market and because businesses and customers are now often separated by screens, establishing genuine trust, therefore, can be challenging. WhatsApp Business, with its direct communication and verification features, can bridge this gap and signal to customers that behind the digital storefront is a genuine business, and one that listens, cares, and values the relationship.

WhatsApp Business, therefore, provides and effective and efficient way for small businesses to approach communication, marketing, and relationship-building.

Tech Tip – Create Shortcuts for Important WhatsApp Chats

If there’s a particular and important chat you access frequently, you can create a shortcut for it on your device’s home screen. Here’s how:

Long-press on the specific chat in the chat list until it’s selected.

Tap on the three dots (top right).

Choose “Add chat shortcut.”

Tap on “Add”.

This will create a shortcut icon on your device’s home screen, so you can save time by accessing the chat directly without opening WhatsApp first.

Tech Tip – Prioritise WhatsApp Messages By Pinning A Chat To The Top

If there’s a particular WhatsApp chat you would like to prioritise, you can pin it to the top of your chats list. Here’s how:

– For Android: Tap and hold the chat you want to pin, then tap the Pin symbol at the top of the screen.

– For iPhone: Swipe right on the chat you want to pin, then tap Pin.

Your chosen chats (you can choose up to three) will then moved to top of your chats list.

Tech Tip – How To Save Time By Sending Public (But Private-Looking) Messages In WhatsApp

If you’d like to use WhatsApp to save time when asking a group of people the same question, making it look as though you’ve asked each of them individually and not having to open each chat to ask them separately, here’s how:

– For Android: Tap on Chats > Menu (three dots top right)> New Broadcast.

– Select the contacts for the broadcast list by tapping on their names (a green tick will appear).

– Once the list has been made, tap on the “Create” (big green tick) button. You will then be shown the number of recipients (and names) top left, with a message field at the foot of the screen.

– Compose and send the message to the list.

– To edit the recipients, or to delete the list, tap on the three dots (top right) and tap on ‘Broadcast list info.’

– To create the list in iOS – Tap on Chats > Broadcast Lists > New List > Add contacts.

Featured Article : Temporary Climb-Down By UK Government

In an apparent admission of defeat, the UK government has conceded that requiring scanning of platforms like WhatsApp for messages with harmful content, as required in the Online Safety Bill, is not (currently) feasible.

The ‘Spy Clause’ 

Under what’s been dubbed the ‘spy clause’ (Clause 122) in the UK’s Online Safety Bill, the government had stated Ofcom could issue notices to messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal (which use end-to-end encryption) that would allow the deployment of scanning software. The reason given was to scan for child sex abuse images on the platforms. However, the messaging apps argued that this would effectively destroy the end-to-end encryption, an important privacy feature valued by customers. This led to both WhatsApp and Signal threatening to pull their services out of the UK if the Bill went through with the clause in it.

Also, some privacy groups, like the Open Rights Group, argued that forcing the scanning of private messages on apps amounted to an expansion of mass surveillance.

Climbdown 

However, in a recent statement to the House of Lords junior arts and heritage minister Lord Stephen Parkinson announced that the government would be backing down on the issue. Lord Parkinson said: “When deciding whether to issue a notice, Ofcom will work closely with the service to help identify reasonable, technically feasible solutions to address child sexual exploitation and abuse risk, including drawing on evidence from a skilled persons report. If appropriate technology which meets these requirements does not exist, Ofcom cannot require its use.” 

In other words, the technology that enables scanning of messages without violating encryption doesn’t currently exist and, therefore, under the amended version of the bill, WhatsApp and Signal will not be required to have their messages scanned (until such technology does exist).

This is a significant climbdown for the government which has been pushing for ‘back doors’ and scanning of encrypted apps for many years, particularly since it was revealed that the London Bridge terror attack appeared to have been planned via WhatsApp.

Victory – Signal & WhatsApp 

Writing on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter), Meredith Whittaker, the president of Signal, said the government’s apparent climbdown was “a victory, not a defeat” for the tech companies. She also admitted, however, that it wasn’t a total victory, saying “we would have loved to see this in the text of the law itself.”

Also posting on ‘X,’ Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp said that WhatsApp “remains vigilant against threats” to its end-to-end encryption service, adding that “scanning everyone’s messages would destroy privacy as we know it. That was as true last year as it is today.” 

Omnishambles 

Following the news of the government’s ‘spy clause’ climbdown, privacy advocates the Open Rights Group’ (ORG) highlighted the fact that on the one hand, the government had conceded that the technology that would have been needed to scan messages didn’t exist, while on the other hand appeared they to say they hadn’t conceded.  Describing the matter as an “omnishambles,” the ORG highlighted how during an appearance on Times radio, Michelle Donelan MP said that, “We haven’t changed the bill at all” and that “further work to develop the technology was needed.” 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

For apps like WhatsApp and Signal, this is not only a victory against government pressure but is also good news for business as, presumably, they will continue to operate in the UK market.

This is also good news for many UK businesses that routinely use WhatsApp as part of their business communications and won’t need to worry (for the time being) about having their commercially (and personally) sensitive messages scanned, thereby posing a risk to privacy and security, and perhaps increasing the risk of hacks and data breaches. It appears that the UK government has been forced to admit the technology does not yet exist that can scan messages on end-to-end encrypted services and maintain the integrity of that end-to-end encryption at the same time. It also appears that it may realistically take quite some time (years) before this technology exists, thereby making the victory all the sweeter for the encrypted apps.

The government’s climbdown on ‘clause 122’ (the ‘spy clause’), is also being celebrated by the many privacy groups that have long argued against it on the grounds of it enabling mass surveillance.

Tech Tip – Sharing Your Location In WhatsApp

If you’d like an easy way to let others know where you are, e.g. a group of friends on a night out, or as a safety precaution, you can choose to share your location on WhatsApp. Here’s how:

– Go to ‘Settings’ on your phone.

– Tap ‘Apps’ (or scroll down on iPhone).

– Select ‘WhatsApp,’ ‘Permissions,’ and ‘Location.’

– Select ‘Allow only while using the app’ (or ‘Ask every time’).

– To turn location sharing off again, follow the same route to permissions and select ‘Don’t allow.’

Tech Tip – Disable Read Receipts In WhatsApp

WhatsApp shows blue ticks to indicate when your messages have been read by the recipient. If you want to disable read receipts and prevent others from seeing when you’ve read their messages, you can turn off this feature. Here’s how:

– Go to WhatsApp settings (the three dots, top right).

– Select “Privacy”.

– Toggle off the “Read receipts” option.

Tech Tip – Using WhatsApp As A Personal Note-Taking Tool

Using WhatsApp as a personal note-taking tool allows you to conveniently store and organise your thoughts, links, and important information and provides a fast and accessible way to capture and retrieve notes whenever you need them. Here’s how to use WhatsApp as a personal note-taking tool:

– Open WhatsApp on your mobile device and create a new chat by tapping on the ‘New Chat’ icon.

– Instead of selecting a contact, search for your own phone number or name in the contacts list.

– Tap on your own contact to start a private chat with yourself and treat this chat as your personal note-taking space.

– Write down important information, ideas, links, or draft messages that you want to save for later.

– Use the text input field to type your notes or paste links. You can also use the attachment options to save photos, videos, or documents as notes.

– To keep your notes organised, you can create categories or use hashtags within the chat to label and group related notes.

– Whenever you need to access your notes, simply open the chat with yourself and scroll through the saved messages.

– Since WhatsApp synchronises across devices, you can access your notes from any device where you have WhatsApp installed.

Tech Tip – Customise WhatsApp Notifications

If you’d like to give notifications for a certain WhatsApp group you’re in a different as tone so you know when new messages arrive there without having check, here’s how:

– To set a custom notification sound for a specific group:

– Open WhatsApp, click on the group chat in question, and click on the group name at the top.

– Put a tick in ‘Use custom notifications’.

– Click on ‘Notification tone,’ select a tone (you will hear samples) and click on OK.

You can also use the custom notification feature for individual contacts.