Is there a BYOD escape clause at your company?

Is there a BYOD escape clause at your company?

Summary: For those of you wanting to opt out of your company's BYOD program, do you have the option of not participating?

TOPICS: Mobility

Companies, small and large, have jumped onto the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) bandwagon in order to save money or to quell the murmurings of its employees for not supplying their favorite device. But for some employees, BYOD is infringing on their rights or taking advantage of them. There ought to be an escape clause for those wishing to opt out. Some BYOD programs have no such clause. In other words, either you bring your own device or you don't have one. This seems to be the case for smaller companies, but larger ones may soon catch on to the "all or nothing" BYOD scheme. Where does this situation leave the employee who doesn't want to share their phone, tablet, or laptop with the company? It might leave them with a different kind of escape clause.

I've heard from many of you who either have commented or written to me privately that BYOD just isn't for you for one reason or another. The reason I've heard most often is that you feel like it's an invasion of your privacy to share your personal devices (usually a smartphone) with your employer. The second most popular reason is that you don't want the possibility of having your phone reset to factory freshness by some hapless mobile device administrator clicking the wrong button.

I'd have to say that all of the complaints I've heard are 100 percent valid. I have yet to hear from someone who doesn't have a legitimate complaint. One of the rarest complaints I received was as follows:

"If my employer chose to, could they confiscate my personal phone and force me to give up my passwords and reveal my personal messages and data? I don't have anything to hide, but that feels like a huge privacy violation."

I am not a lawyer, but I'd say, "Yes", they probably could demand access to your device if you use it for business purposes, especially if they're paying for service or compensating you somehow for its use. But the companies' leverage would probably fall under corporate policy. In other words, if the employer fully informed the employee that this could happen, then the device could be under the employer's domain.

It's probably a good idea to check your company's policies in this area and consult an attorney, if you're really concerned. If you can prove that you weren't aware of any such policy or possibility, then you might have a case. But the employer could terminate your employment if you don't turn over the device. You'd have to check your situation to see if you'd have any legal recourse in case of termination.

I'd like to add my own additional concern to the above. What if your employer came under investigation by some government entity for wrongdoing and your personal phone had to be subpoenaed as evidence in the case? You could be without your personal phone or other device for a long time, years maybe.

Email, chat logs, text messages, and any kind of data that you can store on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop make those devices susceptible to subpoena as evidence. As I said, I'm not a lawyer, but the lines get blurry in these cases, and I think that any electronic device that's used for business purposes is fair game. If you're curious, then I'd consult an attorney, because the situation may vary from state to state and in federal cases.

The big questions are, "Do you have any recourse in either situation?" and "Do you have a valid case to refuse your employer's request for access to your device, to refuse access to a third party such as a security consultant or as in the case of a criminal investigation?"

To the first question, the answer is "Maybe". Sorry, even an attorney can't tell you more than that without more information about a specific situation. You might have legal recourse against an employer, but you'd probably never have recourse against the state or federal government in the case of a seizure of your devices for a criminal investigation. A bit of sage advice here: If your company falls under a criminal investigation, cut your losses and find a new job, get a new smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and move on. By the time the device comes back under your control, it will likely be out of date.

I'm sorry to paint such a grim (realistic) picture of this downside to BYOD, but you have to be aware of all the possibilities where your privacy is at stake.

The answer to the question, "Is there a BYOD escape clause?" is "No, not really". If your company has already begun such a program, I suggest that you find out as soon as possible exactly what your rights are in the matter and see if you can choose to opt out. As for criminal investigations, you're stuck. If your company has not begun a BYOD program, then I'd suggest that you help draft an escape clause so that your personal device doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of your employer.

What do you think of the possibility that your personal devices could fall under the jurisdiction of your employer, especially in the case of a criminal investigation? Talk back and let me know.

Topic: Mobility


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • If your job is worth keeping...

    ...just buy another phone for work. If it isn't worth it to you, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
  • Buy a separate device.

    If I work for somebody who forces BYOD - I'm likely to just buy another device. Cheapest one I can find. There's no way I'm using my actual personal phone on the company's network.

    For the most part, however, I get the impression that BYOD is largely optional in most businesses, and despite the hype it's not really an enormous, irresistible trend. Fact is, there's big drawbacks for practically everybody involved, as you've just highlighted. Neither businesses nor employees have a big interest in things becoming a legal nightmare.
    • That's one solution, but...

      You and gfeier (above) agree that you should purchase another device but that sort of displaces what BYOD is all about. You certainly can buy another that your company pays for or offsets some of the costs for but then what's the difference in that and a traditional yours and theirs scenario? The point is to allow you to use your personal device at work. Originally, the purpose behind BYOD was to do something nice for the employee and allow the employer to save a little money too. It was meant to be a win-win.
      • Not at all

        Your still overlook the main issue employees have with BYOD - Privacy.

        If you wish to not have work having oversight into whatever you do on your personal device - you need to keep it personal.

        There is no WIN/WIN - that's a pipe dream vendors pitch. Each side will either make compromises and with BYOD policies and management becoming more formal it's frankly not that appealing to employees who are now getting the short end of the stick for the "perk" of using their device of choice.

        Your not saving money as say you have a percent of employees adopt BYOD. Your likely going to purchase (as survey's have shown) an MDM or MAM solution. This requires costs for servers, CAL and FTE to manage. Any savings on wireless plans are lost, even more if you provide any sort of subsidy to employees (more and more companies don't). So your lucky if you break even.

        Employees will feel the cost shift as mobile services once fully covered by the traditional corporate liable model are now managed by them. Data costs, extra wireless features, international roaming, device repair / replacement etc.

        For employees, BYOD was great 2 years ago when companies had little means to control it - there are now a wide assortment of solutions on the market and more coming. BYOD has a ways to go to be fair to both sides, many of the issues around privacy, compensation and usage are still being worked out. For now read your companies policies and ask questions if it's not clear. Don't be surprised if the preferred model remains separate devices.
      • I don't think it's a win for everybody.

        "but that sort of displaces what BYOD is all about."

        I don't really care all that much what it's "about." I'm a practical person. I weigh my decisions carefully. If it benefits me, I will use it. If it doesn't benefit me, or if the drawbacks outweigh the advantages, I won't use it. Simple as that.

        Becoming restricted to whatever policies the business has when stuff is on its network - is not really a drawback I'm sure I want to impose on a device meant primarily for my personal use.

        "but then what's the difference in that and a traditional yours and theirs scenario?"

        Nothing. There was never anything actually wrong with the "traditional yours and theirs scenario." BYOD is very much a solution looking for a problem IMO.

        "The point is to allow you to use your personal device at work."

        If I really wanted to, I can - over 2G/3G/4G. It's a smart phone, so it very much works with a data plan. Connecting to the company's network would really be redundant.

        . . . and with things like Straight Talk giving unlimited data these days, I don't really need to worry so much anymore about a limited data plan.

        Not that I should really be doing personal stuff at work anyways - I should be working. Having separate devices also means less distractions.

        "Originally, the purpose behind BYOD was to do something nice for the employee and allow the employer to save a little money too. It was meant to be a win-win."

        "win/win" means "everybody buys into it," it does not mean "one side *pretends* everybody buys into it while the other side really feels as if it sold its soul to the devil."

        Thus, I would not consider BYOD to be win/win if it were mandatory. Optional BYOD would be fine, but mandatory turns "the employee can decide if it's a win" to "the employee loses if he/she does not particularly care for BYOD."

        Maybe other people feel or think differently, but from my point of view BYOD is not a win for me.
  • Policies

    Our employees are given the full BYOD policies which includes sections about these issues and everything related to using the device for work purposes. What's funny is the whole issue about confiscation of your personal device is nothing new or a BYOD thing. If during an investigation (work issued or otherwise) it's determined you have used your personal technology, any of it can be collected via court order to be used as evidence.

    Madatory BYOD is a turn off even more than the increasing policies employees need to agree too. In that case my day ends of 5pm and you can reach me when I'm back in the office. Perhaps thats better for everyone involved to bring some order back to things.
    • Good policies

      Good policies make for better relationships. However, if you're truly a "mobile admin" I seriously doubt your day ends at 5pm. If it does, I'd appreciate knowing of any openings at that company because I haven't said adios at 5pm in my whole career.
      • Better or fair?

        A policy employees view as fair and what the company policy makers construct are often not the same. One focuses on the convenience side the other rigid to security and data governance requirements.

        Look anyone in IT knows about on call and being available. If I was told to use my own device (without compensation of any form) I'd not be so quick to keep up with emails once I "clock out". Now if after hours support started to be treated differently .... I live by a rule - wash my back and I'll wash yours. When one side starts to feel taken advantage of it's usually not a good ending.
    • Re: can be collected via court order to be used as evidence.

      The key words in there are "court order". The company isn't allowed to be a law unto itself.
  • If you work for a DoD contractor - think about spillage!

    "Spillage" - when classified information leaves a classified network.

    About a year ago, an individual at my firm received an email from a DoD employee which inadvertently had classified material in it. It was appropriately dealt with by the employee who reported it, but I'm sure he sometimes wishes he hadn't been so quick.

    The IT department had to cleanse our exchange server which took the better part of a day.

    The individual's iPhone was confiscated and presumably destroyed. A factory reset typically doesn't meet DoD security requirements and at the time, the only certified wipe procedure was for Blackberries.

    So, he was out the $400+ for the iPhone and more significantly, he lost a ton of family pictures he'll never get back.

    I do wonder what would have happened if he had backed up to iCloud? - Could Apple have been served a court order to sterilize their servers?
  • No Escape Clause

    Since we're on call, there's an employment requirement to carry a smartphone with text, phone, and company e-mail.

    They pay an allowance to cover the device.
    • The BYOD with No Escape Clause is one of the best things for me

      My company went the No Escape Clause route and the choice was install the Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution on your personal device or carry a corporate device. The catch was if you had a corporate device, no personal use would be allowed. In other words, hop on BYOD or you're going to carry two phones. Having to carry two phones is the best thing that's happened in awhile, while I'm required to carry a phone during regular work weeks, when I go on vacation, I'm not and my corporate phone stays at home in a drawer! Same for my nights that I'm not responsible for being on call, the phone is turned off when I go home.

      The tendency with a single device used for work and personal is to be on call 24/7. I found that I couldn't stop myself, even on vacation, from at least occasionally checking corporate e-mail and I'd always look when I received a text. Now I'm freed from that hassle, at least for awhile. They are reconsidering the policy of not allowing personal use of corporate-owned devices. But until then, I'm free!
  • The Best Solution for BYOD

    BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 with Z10 Smartphones.

    BlackBerry Balance keeps all company data - email, texts, documents, apps, etc. - in a completely separated environment on your Z10 smartphone.

    If you download an attachment from your company (Work) e-mail, it goes into your Work documents folder, and it's not possible to add that doc as an attachment to your Personal e-mail. And of course, all BES communications are encrypted.

    The BlackBerry Z10 and BES 10 were exactly designed for a BYOD environment. If people would take their blinders off and put aside their prejudice, they would see that BES & BB 10 are the ideal solution for BYOD; in fact, there is none better.

    BTW, I'm not affiliated with BlackBerry.
  • It's not a problem at all here

    My employer reimburses me a significant portion of my mobile bill, with only the expectation that I be reachable on it in case of an emergency situation. For answering it during off-hours a few times a year, I get nearly $1,000 of mobile service paid for - an outstanding trade for me. Then, *if I want* my iPhone (only, for now) to connect to corporate Outlook I must sign a form and allow remote-management software on my iPhone, so that if I lose it they can remote-wipe it. Since I keep a lot of personal data on that phone, I see remote-wipe that I don't have to pay for as a benefit, not a problem. If/when I leave they may want to wipe the phone. Since I can rebuild it in an hour, that again is not a big deal.

    I could have had a company-owned BlackBerry, but prefer to carry a single device. Again, my choice. By end of Summer IT hopes to support Android and Win phones as well, so I may change platforms then.
  • BYOD was never conceived as a benefit to employees

    It was simply a way for companies to shift part or all of their device costs to the backs of employees.

    Otherwise, we would have seen a reciprocal arrangement too - how about the company buys the equipment to allow me to do my job, and I pay if I (optionally) want to use it for personal purposes?

    Anathema to any business. But OK to push on individual employees.
    • radleym is right on

      What if you are not a remote admin or even in IT. You are considered hourly and not allowed to work overtime for cost reasons. How do you filter calls that are business to be handled the next work day from personal stuff? What happens to the remainder of the contract cost if you leave the company and you do not want to keep the device? What if you do not have the $ for a second device and who wants to carry 2 leashes at the same time. BYOD my work for IT types but for other businesses it sucks on ice!!!
  • what if there is an unhappy separation

    Imagine this scenario: Top sales person for the company has a falling out with the company. On this person's own device he has all the contacts for his sales for the company. While he probably has a no compete clause, how do you get that information back.