MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the thought of having to carry two cell phones around in your pocket, your company’s “bring your own device” program may sound like a good idea.
But before you sign up to use your personal cell phone at work, you may want to consider what it could cost you in money and memories.
Health care consultants Michael Irvin said he was just going about his day when his phone suddenly reset all by itself. When he turned it back on, he was in for a surprise.
“I saw just a blank screen, just like I got it originally. It had no emails. It had no text messages, no apps, nothing. It was just completely wiped,” said Irvin.
At first he thought it was just a glitch. Then realized his personal phone, which he had also used for work, had been wiped clean by his former employer.
“There were photos of my mother with my kids, a lot of new phone numbers, contact information that I had gathered,” said Irvin.
The number of so-called “bring your own device” programs has skyrocketed in the U.S. More than a third of companies surveyed said they planned to require employees to supply their own phones and tablets within the next two years.
While the programs can save companies money, and be more convenient for employees, they are not without their drawbacks, according to Lewis Maltby, founder of the National Workrights Institute, especially when the employee leaves the company.
“You can understand why the company would want to wipe the cell phone. You’ve got a lot of communications on there that are business oriented maybe company data. But unfortunately what happens is that the whole cell phone gets wiped, and now you lose everything,” said Maltby.
Irvin was not alone. Maltby said cell phone wiping has become their number one workplace complaint.
Labor attorney Mark Terman agrees it can be a problem. He said companies need to do a better job of disclosing the privacy and access issues surrounding “bring your own device” policies.
“There’s a fair amount of confusion among both employees and employers, and this is a situation where both the company and the employees need to know the ground rules,” said Terman.
Terman suggests companies provide a disclosure of their policy and get written consent from their employees. They should also consider investing in new “sandboxing” tools which allow for a more selective wipe.
“Systems that operate in one sandbox on a device could be accessed and wiped out while not disturbing the sandbox where the personal information of the individual is on,” said Terman.
Meanwhile, Maltby had this message for anyone who uses a personal device for work.
“If you leave your job tomorrow, download anything on your cell phone you don’t want to lose,” said Maltby.
Wiping isn’t only an issue when an employee leaves the company. If they lose their phone or tablet, even temporarily, a company may decide to wipe it immediately to ensure that their data isn’t accessed by anyone else.