As mobile usage within the enterprise surges, security risks still pose a threat. A recent agreement among leading mobile application platform operators may help ease company's concerns. 

More Mobile, More Risk?

Symantec’s 2012 State of Mobility survey (PDF) asked more than 6000 organizations of all sizes in 43 countries from August to November of 2011 about how mobile devices are changing or affecting business. What they found showed that companies have reached a tipping point in the business use of mobile devices.

And while the survey indicates that businesses want to use mobile to improve efficiency and increase workplace effectiveness, companies must address risks associated with losing devices, data loss and malware infecting the corporate network through smartphones and tablets.

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Improving Mobile Privacy for Users Will Help the Enterprise

But businesses aren’t the only ones under pressure to figure it out. A lot of the responsibility falls on those developing the mobile technologies. Recently, Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM, Amazon and HP brokered a deal with the California Attorney General to take a tougher position on the issue of mobile privacy. Through the agreement, the six companies have agreed to improve privacy protections for millions of consumers around the globe who access the Internet through applications on their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. They'll do this by: 

  • allowing consumers the opportunity to review an app's privacy policy before they download the app rather than after
  • offering consumers a consistent location for an app's privacy policy on the application-download screen
  • educating developers about their obligations to respect consumer privacy and to disclose to consumers what private information they collect, how they use the information, and with whom they share it
  • giving users tools to report non-compliant apps and committing companies to implement processes to respond to these reports

For now, the agreement only pertains to ensuring that mobile apps comply with the California Online Privacy Protection Act, but those who do not comply with their stated privacy policies, can be prosecuted under California's Unfair Competition Law and/or False Advertising Law.

By enhancing both enterprise security as well as consumer security, mobile devices are bound to change how companies use them, considering that while a majority of companies are interested in using mobile applications, security is still a big concern. Thanks to the consumerization of technologies, of which the mobile device is one, most companies will find it easier and cost efficient to adopt an existing application than to customize your own. According to Symantec's survey, not many companies have plans to build their own app store anytime soon. 

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Most employees are already using consumer mobile applications in the enterprise. Improvements to privacy agreements will not only better serve consumers and give them better control over their information, it will also help push the enterprise past the tipping point as they struggle to adopt mobile into their workflows.