The Ghana police command’s use of WhatsApp text for official communications is flawed, the Accra Regional Police Operations Commander, Chief Superintendent Kwesi Ofori, has admitted in his testimony before the Emile Short Commission.
Though he believes communication via Whatsapp should “officially be part of our working culture” he noted that “it may have some minuses.”
Responding to questions from a member of the commission, Kofi Abotsi, Chief Supt. Ofori agreed that, for example, if an officer on the day of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election was given certain orders, there wouldn’t be an official record.
Communication by text is also not well regulated by police guidelines, the Chief Superintendent added.
“In my personal judgement, when it comes to critical issues, I may not use that medium to communicate knowing very well that the service instructions of the police service has not captured those things in detail as part of our official communication,” he said.
A number of police officers who have testified before the commission have indicated that official communication does take place over WhatsApp.
Chief Supt. Ofori said, “in contemporary terms, WhatsApp and other text messages have become a part and parcel of our system but we are yet to see proper administrative instructions regarding their authenticity and acceptance as part of our working culture.”
“I can say that in the Accra Region, when any police officer wakes up in Accra, the first thing is to visit the regional WhatsApp group. That is where all situation reports regarding crime and other events are documented,” he added.
He also tried to vouch for the integrity of such information saying “should I open my WhatsApp page in relation to official work, everything is properly stored and preserved.”
On further questioning, he admitted there was no certainty that these records would not be tampered with.
“It may depend on who is operating it because we have somebody who also handled those kinds of messages… If the person can erase or store or whatever. That is not properly determined and guided by instructions.”
How secure is WhatsApp
Although WhatsApp claims its messages are end-to-end encrypted, security researchers have in the past noted vulnerabilities in WhatsApp that allow hackers to intercept and edit someone’s messages in a group chat.
This raised concerns that hackers would create and spread misinformation from what appear to be trusted sources.
But the strength of the encryption compelled a UK Home Secretary to call for banning end-to-end encryption in apps in the wake of the Westminster terrorist attack.
In September 2015, a software vulnerability was discovered in the web version of WhatsApp, which could allow hackers to trick users into downloading malware on their PCs.