BYOD grows, stirs privacy concerns


Business users are increasingly bringing their own wireless devices for enterprise use – but even as that practice grows, employees are uneasy about employers’ access to the private information on their gadgets.

Gartner has called bring-your-own-device programs “the most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace.”

“Formal BYOD programs are a relatively new but fast-growing phenomenon,” said Gartner VP and distinguished analyst David Willis in an August research report. “In 2009, it was typical to see no BYOD program whatsoever in business, even though there has always been a substantial amount of ‘stealth’ use of personal devices. But now formal programs supported by IT are rapidly gaining steam. In a 2011 study, we found that, on average, U.S. CIOs expect 38% of their workforce to use personal devices at work by the end of 2012.”

Perimeter E-Security announced this week that it added mobile device management to its cloud-based services for business. The company says that its new solution, powered by AirWatch, will help companies secure all mobile devices and implement a safe, secure and legal BYOD program in just a few hours.

“Enterprise CIOs want to take advantage of new mobile opportunities, but unlike desktop computing, with mobile, CIOs must navigate a minefield,” said Andrew Jaquith, CTO of Perimeter E-Security. “Diverse operating systems, hundreds of devices of suspect provenance, privacy concerns and new ownership models make it impossible to know how to keep company data secure.”

He went on to say that Perimeter’s solution includes zero-configuration best practices for security policies, privacy controls and complete email integration.

But a survey commissioned by Fiberlink – which also provides cloud-based solutions for MDM and mobile application management – showed that the privacy issue is a sticking point for many employees who participate in BYOD programs.

According to Fiberlink, most employees don’t know it, but employers can at least theoretically track their location during non-work hours, which applications they’ve installed and review or delete personal pictures and music. And that gives many employees pause.

Fiberlink commissioned a Harris survey of 2,243 business wireless users on their concerns about privacy and BYOD programs.

The survey showed that 82% of respondents considered the ability to be tracked an invasion of their privacy; and 76% of them would not give employers access to view which applications are installed on their personal devices. More than 80% expressed concern that employers might track websites they browse on their own phones during non-work time, and 86% were worried about unauthorized deletions of personal pictures, music and email profiles.

Only 15% of the survey participants said they had no concern about employers tracking personal location and personal applications.

“Bring Your Own Device policies are commonplace across most organizations. The survey results show that the vulnerability of personally identifiable information is a significant concern, and that organizations need to be just as concerned about user privacy as they are about the security of corporate data,” said Christopher Clark, president at Fiberlink. “The situation can be easily solved by IT using a MDM solution that can set privacy settings to stop collecting personal data from staff members, but these measures are rarely put in place.”


About Author

Kelly Hill

Editor, Big Data, Analytics, Test & Measurement
Kelly Hill currently reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr