An unexpected side effect of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy many companies are adopting is that smart device owners who either quit their jobs or are fired are finding that their former companies are wasting no time in wiping every last piece of data from their devices. The Wall Street Journal reports that many users have been surprised to discover their devices wiped to factory settings after having been terminated with their previous employers, who didn’t even give them a proper warning that would have allowed them to save personal data.
In many cases, companies have a BYOD policy that includes remote wiping as a solution to preserving company data. According to a July 2013 survey conducted by data protection firm Acronis, 21% of companies perform such wipes even though the practice “hangs in legal limbo,” as legislation and case law are unable to keep pace with innovation.
Lewis Maltby, founder of the National Workrights Institute, said that phone wiping is the most common complaint received in recent months by his organization. Philip Gordon, the cochairman of employment law firm Littler Mendelson’s Privacy and Background Check group has heard from clients whose former employees complained after having their devices remotely wiped, although they didn’t press charges. Gordon expects legal remedies for affected ex-employees to be “found under state computer-trespass statutes, which were originally designed to prosecute hackers,” the Journal says.
One solution to preventing losing personal data during potential remote wipes would be to constantly back up a mobile device on a local computer or via the cloud, although such a practice may still create data protection issues for employers who will likely forbid employees from backing up company data to other devices, Gordon added.
Recent reports have indicated that the iPhone and iPad are among the most popular BYOD choices for many companies, from top corporations to small and medium businesses. Meanwhile, companies like BlackBerry and Samsung have solutions for devices used for work and personal affairs – BlackBerry Balance and Samsung Knox, respectively – that would allow IT departments to only remove company data from devices.