two girls look over shoulder of third girl on her phone

Let’s just call him Harold because he asked us not to use his real name. He’s a sales rep at an insurance firm who cruises apps like Tinder and between customer visits.

“I like to read profiles, look at pictures, SwipeRight,” he said

He’d be mortified if his coworkers or boss found out about it even though he’s single. ”It’s none of their business,” he said, though he admitted that spending an hour or two a day of his salaried time on dating sites might be a little excessive.

He also doesn’t think his employer has any right or need to know what apps, pictures and chats he’s had on his phone.

A Little Privacy, Please

Harold’s not alone.

A recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider MobileIron indicates 41 percent of workers aren’t comfortable with their employers seeing what personal apps they have on their phones. About 44 percent don’t think the content on their phones is anyone’s business other than their own, 48 percent don’t want their companies to be able to access their texts and instant messages … you get the idea.

In fact, employees who use their mobile devices for work believe that it’s up to their employers to safeguard their personal privacy on their devices, not invade it.

“CIOs must remember that every device is a mixed-use device and must protect employee privacy as fiercely as corporate security," said Ojas Rege, Vice President of Strategy at MobileIron.

It’s a nice vision. A substantial 61 percent of employees believe it’s already reality where they work, according to the survey.

Eyes Wide Shut

And employers ought to insure that’s the case because 30 percent of the more than 3,500 workers surveyed said that they’d walk out of their jobs if they found out their employers could see their personal information, such as personal emails, texts, or photos, on their smartphones or tablets.

The reality is that most companies who have EMM programs have policies in place that won’t permit them to view that kind of data.

Even more so, the MobileIron survey found that CIOs don’t want to have access to it anyways because if they do, whether it’s warranted or not, they could be held responsible for it.

That being said, employees should read their company’s policies on the matter, which they usually agree to when they are first hired.

And, heads-up employers, those policies ought to simple, a page or two versus 30, so that everything is clear. It should also include a provision to opt-in (versus opt out) when it comes to sharing data around location and such.

What employers can see, more often than not, isn’t that alarming. It includes: carrier and country, phone, model, OS version, device identifiers (e.g. IMEI), phone number, complete list of apps installed (sorry Harold), location of device (usually an opt-in for the end user), battery level, storage capacity and use, corporate email and attachments, and corporate contacts.

Since most of us use our phones for work (if you send e-mail from an address like [email protected] Company's URL, then you do), get informed.

This is one of those situations where you may not think it’s important until you feel violated. And if you gave your employer consent, then it’s probably on you … sorry.

trustgap infographic employee phone privacy

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by garryknight.