Why businesses need guidelines for managing their employees’ personal information — without compromising on security.
Employee Privacy- Consumer privacy has long been the focal point of controversies regarding how companies handle personal data. While this is clearly an important matter, it has kept the spotlight off of another important issue: the way businesses handle the personal data of their own people.
Consumer privacy is typically associated with the way companies use personal data to make a profit. But employee data is used by companies to monitor for things such as security threats, risky online behavior, and productivity drains. Because monitoring for these types of issues is essential for any business, it’s easy to see how some companies might justify higher levels of employee surveillance.
The US Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), enacted in 1986, prohibits companies from carrying out certain privacy infringements, such as monitoring their employees’ personal phone calls without consent. Even if the federal government were to conduct an overhaul to employee privacy legislation, it would be extremely complex and probably become antiquated shortly after its enactment — given the rate at which technology advances.
Employee privacy is a difficult subject. And for today’s increasingly mobile workplace, it’s becoming even more difficult.
When Smartphones Are Put to Work
It wasn’t too long ago that monitoring people through their phones was synonymous with wiretapping. And it also wasn’t too long ago that a company-issued desktop computer or laptop was the primary or only computer one would use in the workplace.
Today, mobile Internet traffic eclipses desktop/laptop traffic, accounting for 52% of combined traffic worldwide, according to a September 2019 report from Statista.
When cellular phones first transformed into handheld computers, the way companies distributed them to employees generally followed the way any other work equipment was distributed. And while the intent may have been for company-issued smartphones to be looked at by employees the same way company-issued desktops or laptops are typically considered — as company property for company purposes — there’s a much greater mix of personal and business use on smartphones compared with desktops/laptops. According to our research, 50% of all corporate data usage on mobile devices is not business critical.