I recently read a very interesting article* on the growing BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] trend. The article touted a Gartner [market research] prediction that by 2017, one half of employers worldwide will stop providing digital devices and require employees to bring their own to work. Wow.
Even if it’s only one quarter of employers by then, the implications of such a change are profound for both parties. Wouldn’t we all love the convenience of one PC for all of our stuff? Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had a single smartphone instead of one for work and one for personal? Wouldn’t companies like to save all that money by having workers pay for the assets needed to perform their jobs?
Maybe not so much. There are some significant considerations on both sides that will require technological as well as legal solutions before this could work.
Security is most obvious. Employers will rightfully want to and in most cases legally have to protect their systems and their data. Device-based security is found wanting in the age of ultra-sophisticated hacking. But what legal right would an employer have to force an employee to install security technologies on their personal device?
PCs have long been vulnerable, but today’s mobile devices are ever more subject to attack – especially smartphones and tablets where people download all kinds of apps. Employees often use insecure public networks, and goodness knows what their kids might do on devices left around the house. Legitimate users with unknowingly compromised devices could introduce havoc to the corporate network.
Leveraging the Cloud could help, but there are still many security concerns there as well. We can certainly expect cloud security to be greatly improved by 2017, but hackers will never rest. And once corporate data is downloaded to an employee’s personal asset, the employer has lost control.
Privacy is another big issue. How would one confidently partition personal data from employer data? Will your employer be able to see what web sites you visit? What apps you use? As with NSA tracking of private citizens, how would you know where and when you might be compromised? Conversely, what about employees’ family members who go on a little snooping expedition on the company network?
There are also productivity concerns. Certain software could restrict what employees can do with their devices, negatively impacting productivity. And what about the right to work? Will qualified workers be legally denied jobs because they don’t personally own the latest and greatest technology that companies define as mandatory work tools? Perhaps iPads will become the digital equivalent of the uniform. What about when employment ends – what happens to the downloaded data, the company software, the network access?
This is a really complex issue that requires much more thought and vetting before BYOD can be successfully implemented on a broad scale. How comfortable would you be integrating your personal devices into your job?
*Thanks to IEEE’s Computer magazine, November 2013 issue