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Analysis: 37% of Messages Shared on Collaboration Apps Contain Personally Identifiable Information

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The SEC has issued more than $1.5 billion in fines and brought two dozen-plus enforcement actions against Wall Street for recordkeeping failures. But despite federal regulators’ focused attention on electronic communications, including messaging and collaboration apps, a new analysis reveals that platforms like Slack, Zoom and Teams remain a treasure trove of personal data.

AI data platform Aware analyzed almost 7 billion collaboration messages using its proprietary models for its 2023 risk awareness report, which found that tools like Slack and Teams are continuing to proliferate, as is customer data, including personally identifiable information, health data and payment data.

Some key findings:

  • Organizations are moving beyond just chatting in collaboration tools. Platforms are now at the center of a new enterprise workflow, with 15% of messages originating from integrated third-party applications.
  • As collaboration tools are increasingly adopted across the enterprise, employees are beginning to self-police. In 2018, 1 in 262 messages included passwords. Today, that’s down to 1 in 5,000. However, screenshot sharing has increased significantly since 2018; screenshots are statistically more likely to include sensitive information than traditional images.
  • Customer data proliferates collaboration platforms. Thirty-seven percent of all messages sent include things like Social Security numbers, addresses and driver’s license numbers.
  • Collaboration tools are filled with blind spots where even administrators struggle to gain visibility. Over 90% of all messages sent in collaboration platforms occur in private or restricted channels. The research found that 1 in 17 messages contain three or more pieces of sensitive data, including intellectual property, code, credentials and more, and in those channels these messages can be stored indefinitely.
  • Negative communication is relatively common on collaboration apps: 1 in 71 messages were negative in nature, and 1 in 95 were toxic, including bullying, harassment or hate speech.

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