Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs – introduction of new challenges and opportunities for organizations

Global Publication September 2015

As the line between work and home is becoming increasingly blurred, the federal, British Columbia and Alberta privacy commissioners recently issued joint guidelines to help organizations: (i) reduce the risks of privacy breaches with respect to employers’ data accessed from employee-owned devices (EODs); and (ii) secure employees’ right to privacy regarding any personal information stored on EODs.

These guidelines apply to all types of EODs – that is, all desktops and mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops – used to access corporate data, emails, communications, applications and other processes and information, and intend to address issues pertaining to: (i) risk assessment; (ii) acceptable uses of EODs; (iii) corporate monitoring and app management; (iv) sharing EODs; (iv) connection to corporate servers; (v) responsibility for security features; (vi) software updates; and (vii) voice or data plans.

Also, the guidelines emphasize that organizations’ BYOD programs should provide restrictions on: (i) cloud services, (ii) devices and operating systems; and (iii) information that can (or cannot) be stored on EODs. Likewise, the guidelines stress that such BYOD programs should address a number of issues, including: (a) user responsibilities; (b) acceptable and unacceptable uses of EODs; (c) access and security requirements; and (d) sharing EODs with family and friends.

Finally, the guidelines indicate that although BYOD programs can be part of an organization’s cost-reduction strategy, using EODs to carry out both personal and business functions may introduce privacy and security risks that could affect both personal and corporate information.

Accordingly, in addition to the foregoing, the guidelines set out a series of measures to consider, such as: (i) implementing mobile device software to manage EODs that connect to the corporate network and effecting proper authentication measures; (ii) signing, with each EOD owner, an agreement providing for the administration activities that can performed on the EOD by the organization; (iii) partitioning EODs into two compartments; (iv) implementing encryption, storage and retention procedures; (iv) addressing vulnerabilities and malware protection; and (v) providing adequate training for all IT professionals and users.

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