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Dangers and expense outweigh advantages, experts say
More employees are using their own smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices for work purposes—even though this practice could expose companies to financial, legal and other types of risks, experts said.
“One of the biggest risks on the security side is security breaches,” said Phillip Gordon, chair of the privacy and data protection practice group at Littler Mendelson P.C., an employment and labor law firm with offices around the world. “Millions of devices are lost or stolen each year. And a locate request is sent every 3.5 seconds.”
There is the question, too, of what to do when an employee quits—with the company’s data on the employee’s personal device.
More employees are using personal electronic devices for work—whether their employer approves or not. About 77 percent of information workers in the United States and Great Britain use their personal mobile devices and tablets for work, according to a survey released in June 2012 by SkyDox, a file sharing, synchronization and storage collaboration platform.
Major corporations such as IBM, Kraft, and Cisco have crafted policies to guide workers who want to bring and use their own devices for work (commonly known as BYOD). However, these companies often do not extend this privilege to all workers. IBM recently told employees that while they could use their iPhone devices for work, they weren’t allowed to use the Siri app, Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud, saying it posed a security risk.
Gordon and other experts from Littler Mendelson took part in a June 6, 2012, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) webcast to discuss the challenges of letting employees use their own devices for work. For employers, the dangers and expense of allowing BYOD outweigh the advantages, experts said.
Many companies say that letting their employees use their own device saves money, but this is not true, said Michael McGuire, chief information officer in Littler Mendelson’s Minneapolis office. A recent CIO Magazine survey said that allowing BYOD costs companies more because they end up having to pay a portion of their employees’ wireless plans, McGuire said.
A company can see a big spike in help desk and support costs, too, as employees call in to figure out how to get their iPhone, Android or other electronic device to work with company software.
“The number of devices out there is staggering,” McGuire said. “There is not one Android operating system but hundreds with subtle, different tweaks.”
For instance, a Texas jury awarded a woman $24 million when she was hit by a Coca-Cola van driven by an employee who was using a cell phone. What’s more, companies have no control over an employee’s device (or company data stored on it) if law enforcement officials demand that the person turn over their device as evidence, experts said.
Experts offered HR professionals these tips on how to handle BYOD:
“It’s not just a tech-only solution,” Gordon said. “Your company needs policies, and your company policies are going to have to be supplemented with operation procedures and training.”
Greg Wright is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer who has covered Congress, consumer electronics and international trade for major news organizations, including Gannett News Service/USA Today, Dow Jones and Knight-Ridder Financial News. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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