Keeping your work email on your personal smartphone can be risky for you. E-Mail is the backbone of almost every business these days, allowing for instantaneous communication around the world. Many businesses rely on it for everything, as well. With businesses, always come employees. With the every changing business environment, many businesses are stepping away from the old “work provided” cell phone model, and requesting that employees use their own devices for work email and work related activities. While a plus for companies, this can be a potentially big problem for employees of that company because in the event of litigation (civil or criminal) personal cellphones used for any work purposes are liable to be confiscated and examined for evidence during discovery or investigation. Secondarily, Exchange Servers now have the ability to wipe a device of all information on the whim of the systems administrator of the email server. There are a lot of risks involved with using your personal smartphone for work, and we’d like to clarify a few of them.
Yes, your phone can be taken
You may be thinking, “but it’s my smartphone!” and you’re right to do so, but in the event of some form of litigation those rights to your own personal devices are lost if they were used for work purposes. With the advent of “bring your own device” or BYOD, more and more workers are at risk of losing their phones for long periods of time in the event of a lawsuit against the company they work for. A lawsuit gives lawyers the ability to take anything, whether it is a smartphone or any form of mobile device (iPad, Android, etc), and use it in the discovery process of a lawsuit. The best way to avoid issues with BYOD, is to purchase a pay as you go Blackberry or similar device, and write it off on your taxes.
Your devices can be taken for legal reasons
If your company gets sued, and there is any possibility that your phone or iPad/Android tablet was used for work, lawyers are within their rights to take them as long as they want. That leaves you without your personal smartphone, and compromises your personal information. That’s right, lawyers have the rights to view texts, emails, and anything else that might be on your device. When a company is sued, and is then required to produce documents and data, it must show good faith by retrieving data wherever it could be. That includes employee-owned devices.
Your devices can be wiped remotely
If your company uses an Exchange Mail Server (and most companies are), then they have the ability to wipe your device of all data remotely. If you are fired, or your systems administrator decides that they need to wipe your device, there’s nothing you can do. Once your device is wiped, you will lose everything (email, contacts, texts, apps, pictures, and videos!). In most cases, your company must have a legal reason to wipe your phone, but there is always a possibility that it can be done.
Plugging your device into your computer counts as using it for work
Do you have an iPhone, Android, or iPad that you connect to your PC at work to transfer music or charge? This counts as using it for work in lawyers’ eyes. It is recommended that you do all data transfer with personal devices at your home, and charge your devices in a wall outlet, insuring that there is no cause for belief that the device was used for anything but personal reasons. One thing to note, connecting to your company’s wi-fi counts as connecting your device as well.
Cisco Systems Inc. released a report earlier this year saying 42 percent of all workers own the smartphones they use for work, and two-thirds of companies expect the employee-owned device phenomenon to increase. While it is cheaper for companies to have employees use their personal devices for work-related email, it is risky for employees to do so. If given the option, you should get a phone that is provided by your employer and use it only for work, keeping your personal and work devices separate. In the case of a lawsuit, you must then only give up your work phone. While not always realistic to expect employers to provide you a phone for work, you also are not required to keep work email on your phone unless stated in your contract. If you do decide to use your personal devices for work-related activities – Keep Frequent Backups of your data.