The Growing Issue of Message Archiving in the Financial Sector and the Solution

In the last decade and a half, instant messaging apps such as iMessage, and WhatsApp have become an integral part of our daily lives. These apps, while convenient for quick communication, have also posed significant challenges to regulated sectors like the financial services industry.

Recently, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) expanded its investigations into violations of regulations associated with the use of personal messaging devices by broker-dealers. This has resulted in penalties exceeding $1.8 billion for 16 financial institutions, and the scope has now widened to include investment funds and advisers.

According to SEC Rule 204-2, all investment advisors registered or required to register with the SEC must adhere to specific record retention rules, including preserving originals of written communications. To comply with these regulations, many financial institutions mandate their employees to communicate with each other and clients exclusively through email and company-provided messaging programs, where messages can be monitored and archived.

However, with the rise of remote work due to the pandemic, enforcing personal device bans has proven challenging. Even as organizations encourage employees to return to the office, habits formed during remote work persist. Employees may continue using apps like WhatsApp for communication, given their convenience and immediacy.

Moreover, when employees receive work-related messages on their personal phones, some companies require them to take a screenshot of the message and forward it to compliance for preservation. This approach is not only burdensome but also poses potential privacy concerns for employees.

Preserving and collecting data from personal devices presents unique challenges. Unlike email data, which can usually be preserved and collected by an organization's IT department without an employee's knowledge or involvement, preserving and collecting data from mobile devices often requires the employee's cooperation.

Furthermore, rapid changes in mobile device software and instant messaging platforms add to the complexity of data preservation and collection. For instance, Apple's new iOS16 mobile operating system allows users to edit and unsend messages5. Navigating these changes requires an in-depth understanding of these platforms, which may be beyond the expertise of many organizations.

Collecting data from apps like iMessage and WhatsApp often requires third-party programs in addition to traditional e-discovery platforms. Moreover, the unique metadata of mobile devices and instant messages requires specialized knowledge to identify and interpret.

Failure to preserve and produce mobile and instant messaging data can lead to severe consequences, including sanctions. A robust policy on personal device usage is essential to prevent costly complications for organizations and intrusive searches for individual employees.  

FirmScribe is your solution to this complex problem of iMessage archiving. It provides a secure, seamless system for ensuring your business stays compliant with all necessary regulations. With FirmScribe, you can rest assured knowing your data is safe, secure, and easily accessible when needed.