BYOD and privacy: An uneasy balance

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As we approach the holiday season, many of us will make gift purchases online while at work. While this is convenient for us, it is not necessarily the best thing in terms of our privacy or our company's security.

An overwhelming number of U.S. employees have privacy concerns about using their personal mobile devices at work, yet they continue to bring their devices to work and engage in risky behavior. That was the conclusion of survey by nonprofit IT association ISACA. Check out our related story.

At the same time, IT managers are rightly concerned about the security of corporate networks posed by BYOD. They want greater ability to monitor and manage personal devices at work. Of course, this monitoring increases employees' concerns about their privacy.

The relationship between privacy and technology was the main theme of a Harvard Law School symposium last week attended by Dave Perera, editor for our sister publication FierceGovernmentIT. Panelists at the meeting warned about the growing threat to privacy from monitoring and surveillance, whether done by the government or an IT department.

If you would like to listen to the symposium's discussion of the privacy implications of technology, please click here.

As with most disputes of this sort, the solution lies somewhere in the middle. Employees will continue to bring their personal mobile devices to work to improve their productivity. Companies should take the opportunity to educate them about the risks certain behaviors create, not only for the company but also for the employee.

IT departments will continue to want to monitor and manage personal devices at work, given the security risks they can pose to the corporate network. Perhaps a container solution is the best approach for enterprises. This would separate corporate data from personal data on the personal mobile device. That way, IT could monitor and manage what they need to monitor and manage, while protecting the privacy of the employee's personal information.

Whatever the BYOD solution adopted, companies should seek to balance their security needs with employees' right to privacy. It is a delicate balance that must be maintained. - Fred