How big have chat apps gotten? Just look at the data. Survey findings show that three quarters of us now prefer using chat to other forms of electronic communication. In concrete numbers, the biggest free messaging services, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger, have around a billion active users apiece. And those users aren’t just in a couple of high-income countries. WhatsApp and Messenger users, in particular, are pretty spread out across advanced and emerging markets.
Chat isn’t just surging among consumers either. Heard of a “little company” called Slack? It first started releasing collaboration tools for enterprise teams in 2013. And it now has over 5 million enterprise users – with press hosannas along the way about how Slack is killing email. Nor is Slack the only big enterprise chat service. There’s also Chatter, Yammer, HipChat, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace, the list goes on.
These services all make it a lot easier for us to collaborate, especially in global teams. But there have been some serious, unintended consequences to the growth of unregulated or unsanctioned chat applications in the enterprise. Foremost, chat now gives us a digital record of what we might think of as mundane, office gossip – the proverbial water cooler talk of yore. It makes that private gossip fully searchable for anyone who knows where to find it, a list of folks which might include disgruntled employees.
The easy searchability of what were previously spoken conversations in unsanctioned chat apps now means that those digitally captured exchanges can be leaked to embarrassing effect. And just as chat is becoming the new email, leaked chat scandals are becoming the new leaked email scandals. Here are just a handful of embarrassing leaked chat incidents from the last few years:
Trouble at The Times
After New York Times op-ed writer, Bari Weiss got embroiled in a social media scandal, her Times colleagues took to Slack to complain about management’s inadequate response to it. Unfortunately, a full transcript of the chat ended up getting leaked to the press.
Teacher’s nasty message
Similarly, a Slack chat involving Rhode Island-based high school teachers got leaked. In it, some of the teachers are bashing their students and those students’ parents. The teachers in question resigned soon after the chats got leaked to the press.
U.K. parliamentarian, Lucy Powell, had to issue an official apology after her insulting WhatsApp message got misdirected to a group of fellow MPs.
Not sure if your crisis communications are going over leakable chat channels? Then, read our latest paper, When a Leaked Chat Becomes the Crisis, to learn how to easily secure your communications.
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