BYOD Privacy, Corporate Policies, and Employee Rights

by Matt Klassen on October 3, 2014

With more companies embracing BYOD, and indeed an increasing number now demanding it, tensions have started to mount over user privacy, with employers who want access and control over corporate data on one side and employees who want to maintain control over their private data stored on their devices on the other.

As it stands, each company is now free to set and enforce whatever BYOD related rules they want, with really little or no protection for the very employees who initiated the revolution several years ago. When the movement first began I doubt employees were thinking that soon they’d lose control over their own devices and also be forced to assume the financial burden of using their own personal device, but that, unfortunately, is exactly how the BYOD landscape looks today.

But in an effort to bring some resemblance of reason and equity back to BYOD, both the courts and independent research groups have weighed in, the former starting to dictate certain restrictions while the latter offers suggestions for how best to embrace BYOD without alienating those it’s meant to benefit. Simply put, there should be rules for fair BYOD use, and if companies don’t implement them willingly, well the courts might just do it for them.

One of the greatest incentives for the enterprise sector to embrace the unstoppable BYOD movement has always been the potential savings inherent in the process, as allowing users to buy and use their own phones at work alleviated much of the financial burden of supplying the technological tools necessary for much of the modern workforce to do their jobs. The problem with this, however, is that apparently it’s illegal, as the California Court of Appeals recently overturned a Supreme Court decision and ruled that “when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them.”

Simply put, the savings employers thought they could reap by allowing employees to bring their own devices to work are gone, or at least they will be in short order, once again leaving many companies wondering why they should adopt BYOD at all, particularly given the serious network security implications of using consumer oriented products in the workplace.

But of course the reason the BYOD movement started in the first place is that employees started to bring their own devices to work whether they were allowed to or not, and while it was easier to restrict this habit among the rank-and-file, it became infinitely more difficult to the enforce when the executives in corporate America jumped on board.

So in an effort to bridge this growing gap between employers and employees related to BYOD standards and expectations, Webroot recently published its own take on guidelines for how employers should manage BYOD, dubbed “The BYOD Bill of Rights”:

  1. privacy over their personal information;
  2. be included in decisions that impact their personal device and data;
  3. choose whether or not to use their personal device for work;
  4. stop using their personal device for work at any time;
  5. back up their personal data in the case of a remote wipe;
  6. operate a device that is unencumbered by security that significantly degrades speed and battery life;
  7. be informed about any device infections, remediation, or other activity that might affect their device’s performance or privacy; and
  8. download safe apps on their personal device.

While it behooves companies to adopt such standards, as studies have shown that increased productivity and employee satisfaction are the real benefits of BYOD, lacking any sort of legal regulation it’s difficult to see why any company would voluntarily embrace these so-called rights, as right now employers hold all of the cards in the BYOD movement, certainly not what we all had in mind when this whole thing started.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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