New research from mobile security and management firm MobileIron found many users unsure of what activity or data their employer can see on their corporate mobile device. In an age where bring your own device (BYOD) is becoming increasingly common, it raises some important questions around privacy, and the trust relationship between employers and employees.
The survey was conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany by research company Vision Critical, and it is based on 2,997 randomly selected adults with jobs.
The research found that 84% of respondents own the smartphone they use for work purposes, as do 82% of tablet users. When asked: "What information on your mobile device do you think your employer can see?" nearly half the respondents (41%) were sure their employer could not see any information on their mobile device, while 15% were not sure. Only 28% think their company can see their work email and attachments while only 22% think their company can see their work contacts.
But the reality is that if these devices are used to get corporate email, employers can see work email and attachments on a mobile device just as easily as they can on a PC.
It was interesting what respondents felt when asked about their comfort levels with their employer having access to, or being able to see, different types of content. 66% were not comfortable with their employer being able to see/access their personal email and attachments, 63% for texts, 59% personal contacts, 58% photos and 55% voicemails.
Only 21% would be uncomfortable with their employer being able to see company email and attachments, and only 20% were concerned about it being able to see company contacts on their mobile device.
Where people lived had little impact on their responses. But the survey found younger staff in the 18-34 years old range were noticeably less comfortable with their employer seeing their data than people over 55 years old.
MobileIron described what employers are able to see/access on mobile devices, and what staff are comfortable with the being able to see/access, as a ‘trust gap’. When asked what employers should do to improve trust, 26% said the most important thing their employers could do is to explain in detail the purpose of seeing certain information on the device, and how they separate the personal content from work content.
20% would like their employers to ask their permission in writing before accessing anything on the device; 18% would prefer written notification about what their employers can see and what they cannot. 18% want a promise in writing that their employers would only look at company information and not personal information, and 15% want a written request from their employers asking for their permission before accessing anything on my device not relating to work content.