• Transparency Networks

Public institutions and businesses today face greater scrutiny than ever before. Social media generates news by the minute while simultaneously functioning as platforms for individual voices to be heard. In a world where consumer loyalties shift drastically and the demand for transparency increases, businesses face the challenge of maintaining trust with their stakeholders.

Moreover, institutions must enable employees to voice concerns through formal and informal channels. Besides triggering a major world health crisis, COVID-19 created a string of new challenges in its wake. Evidence of whistleblowing reports by employees increased during the pandemic. Some cases referenced the pandemic directly, while others included abuse, fraud, or unsafe working conditions.

Now more than ever, employers need to implement transparent channels for fair hearings and responses to these reports. Not only should institutions create these spaces but step back and re-evaluate work culture and conduct that could encourage potential wrong-doing.

Acceptance and Openness

In effect, whistleblowing is part of the new normal and workplaces of the future. Leaders and organizations need to recognize and create the necessary provisions for it. Conversations around ethics and integrity can be challenging but are crucial to have nonetheless. The first signs of a red flag are when organizations do not have these dialogues regularly. Committing to an open culture is easy on paper - but an entirely different matter when it is time to walk the talk.

Treat Whistleblowers as Assets, not Liabilities

Whistleblowers often face the stigma of being labeled as ‘snitches.’ Flip the narrative instead. Build an active ‘speak up’ culture to encourage internal reporting while protecting confidentiality. Whistleblowers can be crucial sources of information on signs of organizational misconduct and the insidious abuse of power.

Test the Effectiveness of Workplace Mechanisms

Every organization has detailed reporting mechanisms and methods to build a work culture. However, very few businesses do a deep dive to test the effectiveness of these mechanisms. Consider analyzing existing reports and trends to arrive at the bigger picture. Look for patterns of serial complaints, silence, resignation patterns, or identify groups who might be most at-risk. What’s more, take a hard look at leadership and workplace hierarchies that could lead to abuse of power.

Transparent and Independent Reporting

Encourage people to speak up by creating independent review mechanisms to report unethical conduct by the leadership. Conducting independent investigations assures employees of action. Take concrete steps such as establishing unbiased special committees, independent legal counsel, and disseminating regular and transparent communication around the report.

Effective Responses to Whistleblower Complaints

Define and establish procedural requirements to address whistleblower complaints. While each case will differ from the next, the basic premise is an objective assessment, fairness, empathetic listening, and no retaliation. Document your findings and assess potential systemic issues every step of the way. Finally, have a contingency plan in place should matters go public or escalate further.

Creating the infrastructure and safe space to hear employee concerns is at the heart of healthy work culture and good leadership. Establishing internal capabilities for transparent policies and communication addresses risk and builds employee trust. These are fundamental starting points to anticipate and adapt to the needs of a changing world.

  • Transparency Networks

Data is power in today’s economy, with concerns on who has access to it dominating contemporary discourse. With our growing dependence on technology comes increasing threats to privacy and security. Whether it's browsing engines, social media, or messengers – different platforms monitor, collect, and monetize sensitive information about their users. Most of the time, the users are none the wiser.

It comes as no surprise that WhatsApp received widespread backlash after announcing alarming changes to its privacy policy – essentially stating its intentions to use your chat data for advertising. Following the announcement, users rapidly made the switch to Signal – a secure messaging app endorsed by personalities like Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, American whistleblower Edward Snowden, and authorities such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others.

In this article, we address the burning questions around Signal and what it means for the future of secure messaging.

What is Signal?

'Say Hello to Privacy' is the brand’s tagline and speaks to its USP. Signal is a messaging app available for Apple (iPhone and iPad), Android, Mac, and Linux devices. The app garnered interest because of Brian Acton, former co-founder of WhatsApp. Acton left the company in 2017 and donated $50 million to fund Signal. After leaving WhatsApp, Acton, along with current Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike founded the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger.

What Makes Signal Different?

Signal is a free service offering secure messaging, group chats, voice and video calls with end-to-end encryption. The app’s open-source Signal Protocol is a game-changer in implementing end-to-end encryption. Additionally, it goes a step further and also encrypts user metadata.

Why is metadata so important? Theoretically, anyone tapping into people’s communications can still gain access to user metadata despite end-to-end encryption. Metadata comprises information such as timings of chats, device identities, or who is chatting with whom. Protecting the privacy of our messages is critical but encrypting metadata is just as important.

What distinguishes Signal from other apps is its approach to user data. Signal only collects user phone numbers, while WhatsApp, for instance, is known to collate reams of information like user ID, phone numbers, device ID, email addresses, contacts, advertising data, and payment information.

Too Good to Be True?

Not quite, believes Signal COO Aruna Harder, in response to concerns about whether Signal can continue offering free services as its user base increases. Signal is a nonprofit with seemingly no vested interests in profits or selling user data. So as a non-profit, they simply 'need to break even' says Aruna Harder.

I Have Nothing to Hide

'I have nothing to hide' is a common stance with most people indifferent to data privacy. However, the average person should be worried about identity theft or social security numbers being leaked.

Additionally, users should never assume privacy despite end-to-end encryption. Most of us use keyboards that automatically predict and store text before an app like Signal can read it.

On a Parting Note

It is crucial to make a distinction between data security and data privacy. Security protects your data while privacy safeguards your identity. When choosing a messenger app, both components are critical.

At Transparency Networks we recognize the importance of mitigating security risks and making privacy a fundamental part of our organization’s DNA. Using an app with end-toend encryption is the best way to safeguard data and privacy. By using Signal, we’re aiming to further enhance our secure communications and strengthen a culture of trust in how we function every day.