Balancing Mobile Device Management Against Privacy Concerns

The business discussion about the bring your own device (BYOD) trend doesn't normally include the topic of privacy for employees. However, Fiberlink, a provider of mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) solutions, recently commissioned a Harris survey to look at just that very issue. The survey revealed that employees are alarmed about employers' ability to access and collect personally identifiable information through business-owned or employee-owned mobile devices.

Managed service providers (MSPs) normally focus on employers who are looking to protect corporate data, but they should also consider the privacy of employees. Through certain BYOD solutions, employers are able to track employee locations during work and non-work hours. Do employers need to track the location of employees? Probably not, but employers will argue that if a mobile device is lost or stolen, the ability to locate a device would be a benefit.

While this argument may be true, it may be worthwhile to consider BYOD policies to protect an employer's employees. A written policy will outline what an employer can and cannot do, so their is a mutual understanding. Should employers be able to remove personal files, pictures, and music? According to the survey, many employees have no idea that this is possible, unless specifically informed through an acceptable user agreement and mobile policy.

The survey concluded that many employees are overwhelmingly concerned and would not want employers to have this access into their personal lives. The following provides a summary of what employees said about the issue:

  • 82 percent of respondents consider the ability to be "tracked" an invasion of their privacy
  • 76 percent of respondents would not give their employer access to view what applications are installed on their personal device
  • 75 percent of respondents would not allow their employer to install an app on their personal phone which gives the company the ability to locate them during work and non-work hours
  • 82 percent are concerned to extremely concerned about their employers tracking websites they browse on personal devices during non-work time. On the contrary, only 15 percent are not at all concerned about employers tracking their location during non-work time
Recently, Fiberlink pledged MDM support for the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 through MaaS360 --- the company's mobile device management solution. MaaS360 helps companies monitor the expanding suite of mobile operating systems, including Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. For more information on the company's partner program, visit the company's website.
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