iPhone Mobile Messaging Compliance Issues

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iPhones are globally renowned for their secure messaging capabilities.

Given that the messages are encrypted end-to-end and the communication travels in Apple’s proprietary cloud servers over the internet without relying on mobile carriers, iPhone usage has skyrocketed among business professionals.

While the ability to communicate discretely through a medium that even the world’s premier security agencies can’t hack seems like a dream come true, especially in regulated industries, it also poses a myriad of challenges. Compliance officers, HR teams, and IT departments at these companies are equally stumped as to how they can archive iPhone text messages in alignment with the regulatory requirements.

While the iPhone is designed to resist various monitoring tactics, that excuse has never once worked when the regulators came knocking with their audits and investigations.

When sloppy iPhone compliance measures cost companies millions 

In August 2023, news broke that Wells Fargo in addition to several other US financial institutions had to pay combined fines of up to $549 million for hiding messages in iMessage and Signal. The sweeping action was taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), alleging that not maintaining an iPhone SMS archive violated recordkeeping rules from the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, 1934 Securities Exchange Act, etc.

What is noteworthy is that the regulators fined the financial institutions for not being able to produce records of business-related communication via instant messengers going back to 2019. Consequently, regulated firms have the responsibility to maintain their employee communication about their operations for the duration mandated by the regulators.

Apart from the SEC, there are also many other regulations, including the FCA, MiFID II, FINRA, HIPAA, etc., that need to be considered while planning to maintain records of employee communication depending on the industry.

The need for iPhone message archiving goes beyond regulatory compliance 

iPhone users make up a whopping 21.57% of the world’s total smartphone user base. There is evidence that iPhone users spend nearly 40 hours per week using their phones, meaning companies that neglect iMessage communication compliance are likely missing all kinds of red flags about their data security and employee productivity.

With a robust system in place to capture iPhone messages, employers can expect to:

  • Have their employees comply with internal communication policy, largely preventing instances of the leakage of sensitive data, harassment of coworkers, etc.
  • Maintain a high level of employee productivity, given that the company is aware of the use of unapproved apps or communication channels in a way that doesn’t contribute to the team
  • Monitor security issues in real time because IT teams and compliance officers will be aware of the use of inappropriate words or phrases, the sharing of harmful documents/ links, etc.
  • Free up the time and workload of HRs and IT teams when it comes to internal investigations relating to malpractice, inappropriate behavior, etc., due to a reliable record of employee communication
  • Have a “single source of truth” to handle legal disputes about communication between employees, clients, management, etc.
  • Quickly retrieve information for regulator audits and not end up in a situation like Wells Fargo and the other financial institutions
  • Improve relationships with their customers and prospects and even bolster revenue because employees are much more likely to try their best when there is a monitoring system in place for the iPhone messages

Common roadblocks to compliant iPhone message archiving 

Capturing iPhone messages comes with its own complexities due to the powerful encryption and iMessage’s lack of plain-text archiving capabilities.

But the device’s popularity and the fact that its features have made it indispensable to business users means companies can’t take the easy way out and ban its use. So, companies have to figure out a way to capture text messages, record voice calls, and safeguard copies of images, videos, and documents sent over the Apple cloud network for compliance purposes while navigating the following challenges:

  • Employees using their own iOS devices and apps for business communication without any oversight, especially when working in remote/ hybrid settings
  • Handling employee privacy concerns and regulations, like the GDPR that lay down restrictions on the level of processing that employee data can be subjected to
  • Security concerns associated with capturing encrypted employee communication and storing a copy with the appropriate access controls and the redaction of sensitive information
  • Keeping up with the latest software updates and employee communication trends when it comes to instant messengers
  • Being able to filter out the required messages from the vast amounts of captured employee communication for audits, e-discovery, or investigations

Stopgap measures of retaining iPhone messages and why they’re doomed to fail

While faced with the stark reality of getting penalized over not maintaining records of iPhone communication sent via Messages or ensuring non-negotiable things, including WeChat complianceWhatsApp archiving, etc., that happen over employee devices, companies often employ roundabout measures that don’t address their compliance requirements and even needlessly complicate the task.

Typically, employees may back up their iPhones on a computer, which can be tampered with or even lost permanently.

Taking screenshots of important communication for recordkeeping purposes can also be susceptible to alteration and deletion. Given the rise of advanced powerful photo editing software, especially the ones powered by AI, screenshots may even end up being disputed.

iPhones themselves come with a variety of monitoring capabilities, which allow companies to track if their employees are using unauthorized applications or instant messengers for communication, but there is no reliable way of safeguarding the messages for the duration of the retention period demanded by various regulators.

The case for third-party archiving solutions for retaining iPhone communication 

Having a system in place that automatically records a copy of your employee communication in a server of your choice is the way to go when it comes to navigating iMessage recordkeeping requirements.

With a solution like TeleMessage, companies are equipped with the ability to proactively monitor iPhone conversations; compliance teams can predefine problematic keywords/ phrases that are auto-flagged the moment they are used. As a result, there is enhanced transparency and accountability in employee communication, leading to lower instances of conflict with regulators, better adherence to company communication policy, and stress-free working conditions.

Unlike the other ways of recording iPhone texts and calls, directly archiving the messages empowers the regulated companies with full control over how long they can retain the messages.

Messages retrieved from the SMS archive for audits or investigations are also undisputable, given that there is a clear trail of modifications along with the original version. Crucially, these messages can be accessed despite the voluminous records because the communication is recorded with context, like the sender info, receiver info, time of message delivery, etc.,

Taking advantage of the information at their disposal, regulated firms can even derive crucial insights on which teams are most compliant, how productive their employees are, and what impact their text/ calling campaigns are having on their prospects or clients.

To get started with your journey towards using iPhones to their full potential while staying compliant, contact us for a TeleMessage demo.

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