Data risk management practices failing to keep up with the evolution of information sharing

Published: Tuesday, 16 March 2021 10:18

Veritas Technologies has published the results from new research, The Veritas Hidden Threat of Business Collaboration Report. This polled 12,500 office workers across ten countries and shows that employees are exposing companies to risk by taking data out of the control of businesses that employ them.

The report highlights the dangers of mis-using instant messaging (IM) and business collaboration tools. 71 percent of office workers globally – including 68 percent in the US – admitted to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data using these tools.

In the US, 58 percent of employees admitted saving their own copies of business information shared over IM, while 51 percent delete that information entirely. Either approach could leave companies open to significant fines if regulators ask to see a paper trail.

Sensitive data being shared by employees on IM channels in the US includes client information (13 percent), details on HR issues (10 percent), contracts (10 percent), business plans (10 percent), and even COVID-19 test results (12 percent). Less than one-third of employees suggested they hadn’t shared anything that could be compromising. The research also reveals that, while employees are using collaboration tools to close deals, process orders and agree to pay raises, many believe there will be no formal record of the discussion or agreement. In fact, only 56 percent in the US believe employers are saving this information.

The research shows this challenge is compounded by the amount of time employees spend using messaging and collaboration apps: time spent on tools such as Zoom and Teams has increased by 13 percent in the US since the start of the pandemic. This means employees are spending, on average, two and a half hours every day on these applications, with 27 percent of US employees spending more than half the working week on these tools.

A significant amount of business is now routinely conducted on these channels and employees are taking agreements as binding. For example, as a result of receiving information over messaging and collaboration tools, almost 24 percent of US employees have accepted and processed an order, 25 percent have accepted a reference for a job candidate, and 20 percent have accepted a signed version of a contract.

Sensitive data is being shared on these tools even though 39 percent of US employees have been reprimanded by bosses. These admonishments may have been in vain, however, as 75 percent of all US workers say they would continue to share this type of information in the future.

The research also uncovered some interesting patterns that emerge from country-to-country comparisons:

Veritas recommends the following steps for businesses to regain control of data being shared over collaboration and messaging tools:


The research was conducted and statistics compiled for Veritas Technologies LLC by 3Gem. A total of 12,500 office workers who used communications channels as part of their job were interviewed between 23rd November – 8th December 2020 in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, UAE, United Kingdom and the United States.