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BYOD: Bring Your Own . . . Disaster?

While the “Bring Your Own Device” phenomenon seems to be gathering even more momentum, few organizations seem to be working on the compliance issues that BYOD can create.  BYOD is clearly an important technology wave, but without some thoughtful planning, this BYOD could easily turn into “Bring Your Own Disaster”.

BYOD can be loosely defined as employees using their own devices to access company resources and complete job-related tasks.  In the real-world, BYOD can be as simple as an employee using personal funds to purchase a cell phone for business use; or as complex as an employee-purchased tablet (or laptop!) with monthly wireless charges reimbursed by the company and access to the company network encouraged.   These devices can boost productivity but with an impact.  Some companies have found that several hundred applications — typically unapproved and many completely unknown to the company — are touching their network from employee smartphones.

BYOD creates concerns that need to be addressed, or at least considered.  In the more complex situations (usually with laptops or tablets), both corporate and personal data will probably be mixed on the device.  If a mixed use device contains illegal or infringing data, is the company responsible?  If a lawsuit or investigation requires access to the employee’s data, does the company have the right — or obligation — to collect relevant information from the device?  What if it has the obligation but not the right?   And what happens if data is clearly relevant to a company issue but also clearly personal to the employee — will the employee resist?

Specific regulations regarding data retention or security may also be triggered.  How does an employer insure that record content created on these devices, which may have never touched a corporate server, is retained for required retention periods?  Insuring compliance with regulations such as HIPAA (related to health information) and 17a-4 (broker-dealer communications) is unlikely without the company having some access to and knowledge of information created and/or stored on the device.  Outside the US, the problem can become more difficult because data privacy laws further limit the company’s access to the information.

What can you do?  Although the ultimate solutions will likely be technology based, start with policies.  Dust off your records retention, email retention, corporate network, cell phone, security and other related policies and read them with an eye on BYOD issues. Consider whether the company can or should mandate access to a personal device used for corporate purposes, or create an obligation granting access to the device if it has data necessary for the company’s regulatory requirements or legal requests.  There is not yet much guidance from the courts on whether this is sufficient, but putting these requirements in writing is a start.

Longer term solutions may be technology based.  Access to company resources via smartphone and tablets can be controlled through security applications installed on the device.  Applications (like EMC’s Syncplicity) can deliver the convenience and open collaboration of an application like DropBox but with corporate controls.  And some creative planning can insure that most email and documents available on a smartphone or tablet are also on a corporate network for easier access and retention.

But beware —  employees and employers may not see eye-to-eye on many of these concerns. For example  over 75% of employees said they would not give an employer access to see the apps installed on their device and would not permit a tracking application to identify their whereabouts.  

Like it or not, BYOD is here.  Giving it some consideration and planning now can help you ensure the productivity side of BYOD without the disaster.

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2 Responses

  1. […] We have written before about the security, privacy, compliance and legal issues created by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon.  And if BYOD seems difficult here in the US, it’s far more difficult in the EU with its stronger protection of personal data.  With BYOD, personal information is being mixed with corporate information on an employee-owned device, often with no real corporate oversight, creating all kinds of new problems. […]

  2. […] BYOD: Bring Your Own . . . Disaster? […]

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