BYOD 2.0: Respecting Employee Privacy

The scandal surrounding the recent revelations about the NSA’s surveillance programs clearly shows that the public is worried about their privacy. Corporate surveillance of employee communications has not received as much scrutiny, but the basic considerations are the same. Corporations want to be able restrict employee activities, for several reasons: to minimize amount of office hours spent on personal activity, to restrict leakage of inside information, and to control employee interactions. Before the arrival of smartphones and tablets, this used to be possible by limiting office access to the Internet, confining employees to an intranet, and issuing approved company devices. Before the Internet, there were policies on removal of confidential documents and storage devices (CDs, floppy disks etc.)

Today, 89% of corporate IT departments enable BYOD in some form. With employees bringing their personal devices to the office, and ubiquitous 3G/Wifi, companies can no longer proactively restrict the activities of their employees. Instead, employers have to take a retroactive approach of monitoring employee activity, and then taking action. But the hairy problem here is the monitoring of personal devices: which part of activity on these devices do you monitor, and which should be left private?

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive last year showed that office workers are overwhelmingly concerned about their employers' intentions to monitor their personal communications. These worries aren't overblown: certain mobile device management vendors do provide enterprises with the option to customize the extent of their control over employees' devices.

The advantage that corporations have over the government is the ability to separate types of activities into business and personal. There is a clear subset of interactions that can be defined as business interactions, and can be monitored by corporations for the purpose of evaluating business performance. That’s actually what BYOD 2.0 is all about: recognizing the value of protecting consumer privacy.

While we at Lua are eager to help companies communicate, we are even more excited about helping them communicate and collaborate the right way, and respecting the privacy of employees would be a huge step in the right direction.