Employee use of own smart devices still risky for employers

BY Greg Wright

More employees are using their own smart phones, iPad and other electronic devices for work purposes — even though this practice could expose companies to financial, legal and other types of risks, experts said.

“One of the biggest risks on the security side is security breaches,” said Phillip Gordon, chair of the privacy and data protection practice group at Littler Mendelson P.C., an employment and labor law firm with offices around the world. “Millions of devices are lost or stolen each year. And a locate request is sent every 3.5 seconds.”

There is the question, too, of what to do when an employee quits — with the company’s data on the employee’s personal device.

Trend rising

More employees are using personal electronic devices for work — whether their employer approves or not. About 77 percent of information workers in the United States and Great Britain use their personal mobile devices and tablets for work, according to a survey released in June 2012 by SkyDox, a file sharing, synchronization and storage collaboration platform.

Major corporations such as IBM, Kraft, and Cisco have crafted policies to guide workers who want to bring and use their own devices for work (commonly known as BYOD). However, these companies often do not extend this privilege to all workers. IBM recently told employees that while they could use their iPhone devices for work, they weren’t allowed to use the Siri app, Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud, saying it posed a security risk.

Gordon and other experts from Littler Mendelson took part in a June 6, 2012, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) webcast to discuss the challenges of letting employees use their own devices for work. For employers, the dangers and expense of allowing BYOD outweigh the advantages, experts said.

Many companies say that letting their employees use their own device saves money, but this is not true, said Michael McGuire, chief information officer in Littler Mendelson’s Minneapolis office. A recent CIO Magazine survey said that allowing BYOD costs companies more because they end up having to pay a portion of their employees’ wireless plans, McGuire said.

A company can see a big spike in help desk and support costs, too, as employees call in to figure out how to get their iPhone, Android or other electronic device to work with company software.

“The number of devices out there is staggering,” McGuire said. “There is not one Android operating system but hundreds with subtle, different tweaks.”

Legal risks

For instance, a Texas jury awarded a woman $24 million when she was hit by a Coca-Cola van driven by an employee who was using a cell phone. What’s more, companies have no control over an employee’s device (or company data stored on it) if law enforcement officials demand that the person turn over their device as evidence, experts said.

Experts offered HR professionals these tips on how to handle BYOD:

• Limit the number of employees who are allowed to use their own devices for work purposes. Limit the privilege to employees with a “need to know, a need to use, and a need to have” their own devices, Gordon said.

• Consider what would happen if an employee left the company with a device with corporate data on it or if their device is lost or stolen.

• Consider installing remote wipe software on employees’ devices so sensitive company information can be erased if the device is lost. However, the employee’s consent must be obtained before such software can be installed.

• Consider using a “sandbox” on an employee’s device — a separate area where company e-mail, calendar and other functions are stored. The employee would have to enter a separate password to enter this area, and remote wipe software could erase data only in the corporate sandbox.

• Prohibit nonexempt employees from answering work-related emails outside working hours when using their own equipment, said Josh Kirkpatrick, a shareholder at Littler’s Denver office. This way companies can avoid being liable for wage and hour and expense reimbursement costs.

• Consider restricting employees from using devices such as iPhones that sync automatically with other devices in their homes. This prevents company data from being transferred automatically to other devices.

• Make it clear to employees that they should not let family and friends use personal devices that are used for company purposes and should not share or store passwords on these devices. This lessens the risk that confidential company information will be compromised.

• Require employees to report promptly when a smart device they use for work is lost or stolen.

• Review exit interview processes for BYOD employees. How can the company ensure that data that is stored on an employee’s personal device is returned?

“It’s not just a tech-only solution,” Gordon said. “Your company needs policies, and your company policies are going to have to be supplemented with operation procedures and training.”

Greg Wright is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer who has covered Congress, consumer electronics and international trade for major news organizations.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).


Leave a Reply

No comments found



Who do you view as your biggest competitor?

Home Depot sued by rock band

BY Brae Canlen

The Black Keys, a popular alternative rock group, is suing both Home Depot and Pizza Hut for allegedly using parts of the band’s songs during TV commercials, Bloomberg News reported.

Black Keys musicians Patrick Carney and Daniel Auerbach, along with writer Brian Burton, claim that Home Depot used parts of its hit single “Lonely Boy” during a commercial for Ryobi brand tools. Pizza Hut, the lawsuit said, created a commercial for its “Cheesy Bites” pizza that featured “significant portions” of the song “Gold on the Ceiling,” Neither company was authorized to use the band’s music, according to the lawsuit. 

Separate complaints were filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Bloomberg reported. The plaintiffs asked for jury trials of the copyright-infringement suits.

Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for Home Depot, told Home Channel News: "We’re reviewing the complaint, but I can assure you that respect for intellectual property is something we take very seriously.”


Leave a Reply

No comments found



Who do you view as your biggest competitor?

Building a better fly trap

BY Ken Clark

Sometimes, the editorial offices of Home Channel News will get sample products to review. Seldom do we write a full commentary about them.

The Rescue! Pop! Fly Trap is one of those rare products worthy of a commentary.

I don’t like the name. It contains too many exclamation points. (The New York Times editors have a longstanding rule: they can use one exclamation point per century.)

But, man, does that thing catch flies!

Here’s what my wife said during official HCN product testing when I set the product on the trash can and drove off for an hour or two to shop at a local home improvement retailer: “Get that thing away from the house! It’s attracting too many flies.” 

But is it killing them?

“Go see for yourself,” she said.

(Note: Squeamish readers should skip the next two paragraphs.)

Here’s what I saw. About six flies were swarming around the trap. Inside the recycled soda bottle, another half dozen flies were swarming around looking for an exit that they would never find. A few inches below this dance of death, a layer of flies floated at the surface of the liquid attractant. 

During the writing of this column, I felt the urge to go check on my fly trap, which I moved behind the shed in the backyard. It’s still working, with vanquished flies piled on top of each other. Man, there must be 300 dead flies in there, easy.

For the innocent flies, it’s death by drowning. No toxic chemicals or electric zappers.

Watching the fly trap at work makes one philosophical. Why aren’t the flies warning each other? Why can’t they figure out how to fly up the middle of the funnel and save themselves? And as the poet Robert Frost famously asked: “What but design of darkness to appall/If design govern a thing so small?” 

These are questions I am not competent to answer. 

The Rescue! Pop! Fly Trap is a recycled pop bottle, modified at the top so that a special fly entrance system can be attached with a simple twist. The product includes water-soluble attractant in a foil pouch. You fill the bottle with water, drop in the attractant, and pretty soon you have filth flies and other disgusting insects of the order Diptera buzzing unawares to their doom.

The kids (7 and 10) don’t like the Rescue! Pop! Fly Trap. They don’t like the ultra-stinky smell of the attractant. And they side with their mother in the feeling that it attracts too many flies. 

To which I, the professional product reviewer for a retail audience, say: That’s what it’s supposed to do. Attract flies and kill them. The more the merrier. A kit sells for about $10 at retail. 

I hate flies. I feel that I’m helping mankind in some small way by eliminating them. I love products that exceed expectations. And therefore, I give this Rescue! Pop! Fly Trap a strong endorsement.


Leave a Reply

No comments found



Who do you view as your biggest competitor?