BYOD Privacy: When Two Phones are Better Than One

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been a hot IT trend for the past few years. Initially, everybody loved the idea of workers using their personal smartphone for work and organisations were quick to adopt BYOD. Now, after years of trying out the policy, companies and employees are having reservations about BYOD, making some even long for the days of Blackberry.

The Privacy Shortcomings of BYOD

You heard us right. There are more and more cases of workers opting for a corporate Blackberry device to get mobile work done, rather than allowing their company to have access to their personal device. The main concern here is privacy. When it comes down to it, devices from Blackberry were designed exclusively as a business tool, and the popular mobile devices of today, like the iPhone, were designed for the consumer.

Therefore, several mobile device management (MDM) solutions that companies install on employees’ BYOD consumer-grade devices, end up providing employers with more control over the device than what employees may be comfortable with, making BYOD lose its luster. CIO.com has this take on where the tension originates regarding BYOD privacy:

In order to safeguard corporate data, the IT executive has had to enact BYOD user policies that favor the company’s rights over the employee’s expectations of privacy. The IT department also restricted the use of certain apps such as text messaging, because all communication between employees and clients must be retained and reviewable and text messages aren’t easy to retrieve.

Somewhere Between Uncomfortable and Creepy

Unless the IT department has been intentional about addressing specific privacy concerns with their MDM tools, IT administrators can easily use these tools to access an employee’s location software and find out where they are at, or take a look at which apps are installed on the BYOD device–including the personal ones.

If these MDM features aren’t enough to make an employee feel awkward, then how about the fact that some MDM tools give employers the ability to turn on a BYOD device’s microphone and listen in on conversations. Now, we’re not saying that every business owner is looking to exploit BYOD in this manner, but the fact that commonly-used MDM tools afford them this ability is enough to make most workers want to opt out of BYOD altogether.

The Risks and Liabilities of BYOD for Business Owners

You shouldn’t take it personally if an employee doesn’t want their device to participate in your company’s BYOD program. In fact, for businesses, BYOD comes with an increased level of liability and risk that you may not be prepared for; risks like, increased security threats from malware on an employee’s phone, and the liability of seeing sensitive employee information that you shouldn’t–like medical records. Then there’s the risk and liability of an employer accidentally wiping an employee’s personal data. It would be difficult to put a price on the deletion of an employee’s personal photos and files, but we’re sure that figure can be arranged in the form of a lawsuit.

Try Keeping Work and Personal Devices Separate

It’s reasons like these why employees in 2014 are dusting off Blackberrys and preferring to use corporate-provided devices instead of sharing their personal smartphones with their employers. Even though BYOD comes with certain benefits, more companies are realising that they can just as easily achieve these mobile advantages by providing their team a work device (one that they completely control), rather than walking the fine privacy line that is BYOD.

For mobile employees, a solution like this may mean that they carry two devices on their person. Many employees will deem this extra hassle to be worth it, especially if it means that they can leave their work phone at the office when the workday is over. For some companies, a solid VoIP solution might be a better fit, since you can take a VoIP handset with you and use it anywhere as if you were at the office. When it comes down to it, giving an employer the ability to contact their team for any reason 24/7 may ultimately be what kills off
BYOD for good.

Know What You’re Getting Into with Mobile Technology

All of this isn’t to say that BYOD is the worst thing ever and it will be the downfall of your organisation. In fact, there are many proven benefits to BYOD worth looking into; benefits like increased productivity and employee satisfaction. However, we are advocating that, if you do allow for BYOD, make sure that you’ve accounted for the risks, and that you’ve implemented an MDM tool that won’t cross any privacy lines.

Technetics Consulting can help set up your business with a mobile strategy that will both improve operations and meet the privacy concerns of everyone involved. Call us at 1300 853 453 to learn more.

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