DFAT staff have been using WhatsApp for communications but have been told to not conduct any secret government business on the app. In response to a question on notice from estimates, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “aware that staff use WhatsApp” to communicate with each other but stated that there were “a range of policies and guidelines on the handling of official and classified information”.

DFAT — somehow — is confident that no sensitive trade information has been communicated by WhatsApp. When asked whether any trade information had been compromised by “online hackers” the department just said “for national security reasons, it is the long-standing practice of successive Australian Governments not to comment on operational security matters”.

It’s not like DFAT staff are turning to WhatsApp because they don’t have any options. The department states that it has a secure global telecommunications system to use.