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Users love BYOD, but survey reveals they don’t understand privacy implications

by David Needle

July 17 2013

Bring your own device (BYOD) is all the rage because it lets consumers use the smartphones and tablets they already own and know how to use at work. And while there are management and security challenges, BYOD is gaining acceptance at a growing number of companies.

But a new survey by MobileIron reveals what it calls a “Trust Gap” in user’s understanding of how safe their personal information is on their personally-owned devices that connect to corporate networks. 

For example, the survey found that 84% of respondents own the smartphone they use for work purposes, as do 82% of tablet users. 

When asked: “What information on your mobile device do you think your employer can see?” nearly half the respondents (41%) were sure their employer could not see any information on their mobile device, while 15% were not sure. 

Only 28% think their company can see their work email and attachments while only 22% think their company can see their work contacts. 

The news comes at a time of heightened interest in the safety of personal information in light of recent disclosures that the National Security Agency (NSA) has carried out an aggressive surveillance program for years covering the domestic communications records of millions of citizens. 

(MobileIron’s survey was conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany by research company Vision Critical. Of the 3,000 participants, a thousand were based in the U.S.).

Ojas Rege, VP of Strategy at mobile security and management firm MobileIron said there were several key takeaways from the results. 

What information is private?

“There is a ton of confusion in employees mind over what the employer can or can’t see,” said Rege. “And clearly the prevalence of BYOD is broader than many times what people think. Even in Germany, 80% are using mobile phones or tablets at work.” 

He also said that there is “clearly a trust gap” where the results show that only 30% completely trusted their employer to keep their information private. 

Another surprising result was that there was no great difference in responses based on either gender or geography. And even though the stereotype is that the younger generation is less concerned about having personal information made public, the 18-34 year old’s surveyed were far more concerned about protecting their information at work than employees 55 or older. 

The good news - tips for employers

Rege said the “good news” in the survey results was that employees across the board were very open to bridging the trust gap. 

“It’s all about communication,” said Rege. “The top item we heard when asked what employers can do to bridge the trust gap was to explain in detail why you as an employer are looking at my information. And then also to promise in some form that you’ll only look at my work information and give me guidance on what you are or are not looking at.” 

David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley
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