Consumerization of IT may be Ready for the PC but Employees Aren’t so Sure

Posted: May 4, 2012 in Executive Corner, Mobility
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We talk so much lately about the consumerization of IT and the BYOD trend which is blurring the lines between company and personal use of devices but are employees ready to take that to the next level by bringing their own computers to work? Over the years, I’ve known a number of developers who work with Mac based systems that would fight tooth and nail to get them allowed into our PC based world, but have always known that the majority of people I worked with had their company computer and then their personal computer and never the twain shall meet. It’s not that these people had nefarious data on their personal computers, it just that they were “personal.”

There are many who are looking to change this trend, with Microsoft leading the way. In his recent blog post, Managing “BYO” PCs in the enterprise (including WOA), Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live division, said: “Our focus has been on how we can continue to deliver PCs and software that users need, like applications and data-access on any device, with enough IT control to assert that the device is trustworthy, while avoiding any compromise of the user’s privacy on their personal device.” The key here is that Microsoft is trying to offer the best of both worlds where employees can have their own personal computers, but connect them up to the networks in a fashion that is acceptable by IT organizations. However, even though this technology will be available, and it may even placate the IT side of things, the question remains as to whether or not this is something that employees will embrace.

A study just conducted by HP Canada discussed in Jeff Jedras; article Bring your own device doesn’t include computers: HP looks to answer this very question. In it they researched the BYOD trend to see if it extends to the PC being one of those devices. What they found was that “There’s a distinct difference between bringing your own device and bringing your own computer,” according to John Cammalleri, HP Canada’s vice-president, personal systems group, SMB and reseller sales. The study went further to discover that “When asked why they were so resistant to BYOC, 63 per cent of SMB employees said they wanted to keep their personal and work lives separate, and 52 per cent said they didn’t want their employer to have access to their personal files.”

The privacy issue looks to be the key factor for most employees when it comes to sharing their PC’s with “the company” so why are they so freely opening up their mobile devices, whether those be tablets or phones to use on “the company’s” network. I believe the key here is the amount of intrusion that exists on the two fronts. It is well known and documented that whatever you do on your PC may be tracked and saved, and, possibly, used against you sometime in the future. As things stand today, most mobile based devices don’t suffer from the same Orwellian sentiment that dogs PCs. But as more and more BYOD policies take effect, this will change and in many instance already has as can be seen by the fact that mobile device privacy issues have now reached as high as the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a recent case, City of Ontario, California v. Quon, the court took up the issue of data privacy on a mobile device where a city police officer was accused of using the device for personal texting of sexual material. David Navetta’s article on this subject “The Security, Privacy and Legal Implications of BYOD” discusses this in detail and the arguments of Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution rights violations. He sums it up stating “The key issue in front of the Court was the extent to which the police officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to private messages sent and received on a city-owned device while on or off duty, and if so, whether the city’s search was unreasonable.” While this case looks at an employer owned device, the precedent can easily be pointed at personal devices being used on company time.

While there are no clear cut answers to these questions, it is clear that the stigma associated with bringing your PC to work is not shared with bringing your own mobile device to work. Only time will tell if this changes as IT organizations put further restrictions and controls on these devices as we enter the next generation of the consumerization of IT.

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