The GAA has told clubs to stop using the messaging service WhatsApp due to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) concerns around those included in team groups.

WhatsApp is used all over Ireland by sports clubs as a simple and efficient tool to relay information about games, training, and events to members, players and parents.

However the GAA have become increasingly worried about GDPR compliance issues surrounding members included in group chats on the app.

The Laois county board have now urged their clubs not to use WhatsApp, and Croke Park confirmed to RTÉ Sport that they plan to release their own communications app - The Games Management System -  which is currently in development. That could become available by the summer.

A document sent to all clubs in Laois reads: "From a GDPR perspective, WhatsApp is not compliant when used for official communications.

"This is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, if a WhatsApp group is set up (U12 hurling for example) every parent in that group has their phone number, and possibly profile photograph if they have one, shared with every other parent in the group without giving their consent for their personal data to be shared in this manner.

"Also, the lack of auditing ability the Club/County has over a WhatsApp group is an issue.

"This is an issue for a number of reasons outside of GDPR and data protection also. For instance, if a parent in a WhatsApp group were to post unsuitable material to the WhatsApp group, and then leave the group, the administrators of the group cannot remove such material.

"The lack of auditing ability also makes it difficult to comply with a Subject Access Request or request for deletion if one were received.

"Along with the above, there is an issue presently with Whatsapp as to the location of the storage of information within it.

"If personal data is transferred outside the EEA, the entity transferring it (the Club/County) will have to ensure additional safeguards are in place which is not possible when using Whatsapp.

"Therefore due to these reasons, the use of WhatsApp in an official capacity is not advisable."

Laois are currently at the forefront of this greater caution around the use of WhatsApp, though the GAA told RTÉ Sport they believe it would be "prudent" for clubs around the country to use the GAA's communications app when it becomes available. 

Laois Today reports that on Monday night, Laois GAA Children's Officer Seamus Lahart declared at a County Board meeting: "I can't stress it enough, you have to scrap WhatsApp."

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