BERLIN, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Several German companies are considering following the example of Continental AG by prohibiting the use of the popular social media applications "WhatsApp" and "Snapchat" on company-owned cellphones and tablets, the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Wednesday.
According to a survey conducted by FAZ, leading companies including chemicals producer BASF, consumer goods manufacturer Beiersdorf and automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen, are also mulling bans in response to the recent enactment of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) across the European Union (EU).
WhatsApp and Snapchat both require users to grant the services access to their digital contact data, including potentially confidential information about third-parties. Under the GDPR, consent must be obtained from all parties involved in order for companies to legally access and store such data.
However, neither WhatsApp nor Snapchat enable users to curtail access by the social media applications to potentially sensitive data. As a consequence, the only legal option to use the two services in the EU would be to ask every contact saved on the phone individually for consent to the sharing of the personal data.
Announcing the move affecting 36,000 cell phones on Tuesday, Continental criticized these policies of the two apps in question as "not sufficiently reliable and hence practically unsuitable" for everyday use. The company was unwilling to assume any resulting data security risks, either on behalf of employees or business partners, and would instead make use of safer alternatives.
In contrast to the other companies polled by FAZ which were looking into outright bans, German software company SAP indicated that it generally allowed the use of messenger applications on company-owned phones as long as they were only installed for private use and did not have access to any contact information of corporate clients and partners. The Walldorf-based company said that it was currently working on a "technical solution" to separate private from company contacts and thereby facilitate the safe use of services like Whatsapp by staff.
SAP's example is indicative of the difficulty experienced by companies in drawing the line between private and official use of company-owned phones as they come to grips with the unprecedented data security standards established by the GDPR legislation. Some companies, including the carmaker Volkswagen Group, the industrial conglomerate Siemens and arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, already banned messenger apps before the new regulations took force out of fear of the risks they posed in the handling of sensitive data.
FAZ highlighted on Wednesday that a data security drive among German companies could witness a surge in demand for alternative messenger services which did not require access to users' contact information. The pay-for-use Swiss app Threema, for example, has emphasized that its services are fully compliant with the GDPR and enable completely anonymous messaging.