February 26, 2021

UNHCR’s Turn.io WhatsApp Service puts privacy first

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is using WhatsApp as one way to communicate with communities, including refugees who are increasingly using the platform, to better inform them about the services that are available to them.

As part of its commitments to data protection and empowering refugees on their data rights, the agency’s Innovation Service was looking for a way to simplify the Privacy Statements and Terms and Conditions that are required for this engagement.

“Privacy statements and Terms and Conditions are often jargon-filled and inaccessible for users, and so get little attention,” says Tala Budziszewski , Associate Innovation Offer (Digital Inclusion) at UNHCR. “Many of our users agree to terms without knowing what they are and so we wanted to find a way to ensure users know about their privacy and terms.”

The solution was the implementation of a three-tier system using WhatsApp’s Business API and powered by Turn.io. The intention of this new approach is to make  privacy and terms and conditions easier to engage with, while satisfying legal and corporate requirements.

The three tiers being implemented through the Turn-powered chatbot are:

A short, snappy introductory message in the selected language – the first message received when users interact with the platform for the first time. This then links to a simplified Privacy Statement and T+Cs and captures informed consent before the user is able to continue interactions.

A simplified Privacy Statement and T+Cs - translated in all relevant languages - which avoids jargon as much as possible and explains terms when needed. It also explains that the version the user is viewing is simplified and links to the full version in English as the legally binding one.

A full statement that includes required legal terms/wording and standard clauses pertaining to engaging with UNHCR - and that is approved by its global teams on Data Protection and Legal.


The service will be piloted in four countries and this privacy statement approach will apply to all future countries that opt to launch the service (always subject to review). With global UNHCR approval for the full legal version now in place translating the simplified statement and the introductory message  in collaboration with people who will use the service are the only actions needed for applying this in new locations.

UNHCR is a global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. The Innovation Service is a team within the organisation dedicated to solving problems and challenges faced with future-oriented approach and creating enabling environments for innovation to flourish in a way that empowers displaced populations.

Click here more insights into UNHCR’s use of messaging apps

Latest news

View all news →