Mobile Device Privacy at Work

What would happen if, tomorrow, 30 percent of your workforce walked off the job? That’s the risk an employer takes when asking to review personal information stored on an employee-owned smartphone or tablet.

That’s what the folks at MobileIron found out when they polled thousands of personal mobile device owners about their attitudes toward personal phone use at work. The rules seem to be pretty clear: Most of the 86 percent of workers who use their mobile devices for work (61 percent) basically trust their employer to keep personal information stored on their phone private. Still, 30 percent said they would quit a job where an employer had access to the emails, texts, photos and other personal data stored on their phone.

MobileIron’s Trust Gap Survey was previously conducted in 2013, so there was prior data to compare to the latest news. Overall, employers are more trusted today than two years ago.

When asked what personal data they weren’t comfortable sharing with their employer, here’s what respondents said:

  • Personal email and attachments: 52 percent (down 14 percent)
  • Personal contacts: 49 percent (down 10 percent)
  • Texts/instant messages: 48 percent (down 15 percent)
  • Voicemails: 45 percent (down 10 percent)
  • Details of phone calls and Internet usage: 45 percent (down 8 percent)
  • The information in all the mobile apps on my device: 44 percent (down 10 percent)
  • Location: 42 percent (down 6 percent)
  • List of all the apps on the device: 41 percent (down 5 percent)

Another survey result: Those millennials everyone keeps talking about are less worried about sharing personal data than are older generations—in general, 10 percent to 12 percent more trusting by category.

By nation, German workers are the most trusting that their employers will keep personal data private (74 percent, and Japanese workers are the least trusting (53 percent). Male workers the world round are more trusting than females, and in the U.S., the differential is almost 10 percent (64 percent v. 55 percent).

“Mobile workers, especially younger workers, have an expectation of privacy when using mobile devices for work. Many would leave their jobs if their employer could see personal information on their device,” said Ojas Rege, vice president, strategy, MobileIron. “In a world where smartphones contain increasing amounts of sensitive personal data, CIOs must remember that every device is a mixed-use device and must protect employee privacy as fiercely as corporate security.”


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