The Privacy Expectation

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — September 03, 2013

When an employee uses a personal smartphone or tablet for work, what information can an enterprise see on that mobile device? Is it just corporate email, or all photos and texts? How about web browsing activity?

According to the MobileIron Trust Gap Survey, 41% of employees believe their employer can’t see anything. Another 15% were not even sure what a company can access.

Conducted by Vision Critical, the survey had respondents from the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. BYOD is a given across the board—84% of respondents own the smartphone they use for work, as do 82% of tablet users.

Not only are these employees unaware of who is seeing what, a majority is rather uncomfortable with the thought of employers reading personal email, texts, attachments or even just a list of contacts. More than half cringe at the thought of employers accessing photos, videos or voicemails. However, far less were concerned about the enterprise reading company work email and attachments (21%) or a list of apps used for work (29%).

Younger generations — ages 18-34, were even more adverse to the concept than older groups, those ages 55 and up. In summary, however, most workers are concerned that employers are accessing personal communications.

Where’s the Trust?
When asked what is the single most important thing an employer could do to increase the employee’s trust in its commitment to protecting privacy, respondents wanted clear communication.

  • 26% said the most important thing their employers could do is to explain in detail the purpose of seeing certain information on the device, and how they separate the personal content from work content.
  • 20% want their employers to ask their permission in writing before accessing anything on the device.
  • 18% prefer written notification about what their employers can see and what they cannot.
In addition, 18% want a promise in writing that employers would only look at company information and not personal info, while 15% want employers to request permission before accessing anything on a mobile device not relating to work.

Is it Realistic?
While privacy expectations from employees are not as high when using a corporate-liable device, those who bring in their own smartphones and tablets simply do not feel like sharing all sides of themselves. This includes private banking information and details that are less private — posts to Facebook or Twitter for example.

Some individuals (22%) also do not appreciate knowing a business can see what kind of health apps they use, while 17% do not even want their employer watching what games they play in their spare time.

The only suggestion then, is to put it all in writing. What is the enterprise’s BYOD policy? Has it ever been updated? Did the employee actively sign off on it? If not, why is he or she still being allowed access to corporate data?

In general, BYOD policies enable both employee awareness and IT enforcement, as malware and security risks are on the rise. Unfortunately, a Cisco survey from earlier this year suggests only 36% of companies actually have a policy. If that percentage doesn’t change, expect the next Trust Gap survey to show an even wider gap.

Related Content:
BYOD Exposed
The Good and Bad of BYOD

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