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People Don't Know What Employers Can and Cannot See on Their Mobile Devices
Jul 16, 2013 (08:07 PM EDT)


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Although Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is becoming a standard business practice, there is a big disconnect between employees and employers when it comes to what is private and what is not on a mobile device, according to new research from MobileIron. The MobileIron Trust Gap Survey, released today, examines the privacy expectations people have when using a mobile device for work. The survey was conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany by research company Vision Critical.

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The research found that 84% of respondents own the smartphone they use for work purposes, as do 82% of tablet users. When asked: "What information on your mobile device do you think your employer can see?" nearly half the respondents (41%) were sure their employer could not see any information on their mobile device, while 15% were not sure. Only 28% think their company can see their work email and attachments while only 22% think their company can see their work contacts.

The reality is that if these devices are used to get corporate email, employers can see work email and attachments on a mobile device as easily as they can on a PC. That's a gulf between expectations and reality.

Different types of information raise different levels of concern
Asked about their comfort levels with their employer having access to/being able to see a variety of information on their mobile device, respondents were not comfortable with their employer seeing the following (where applicable*):

  • Personal email and attachments 66%
  • Texts 63%
  • Personal contacts 59%
  • Photos 58%
  • Videos 57%
  • Voicemails 55%
  • All the information contained in all the mobile apps 54%
  • Details of phone calls and internet usage 53%
  • Location 48%
  • List of all the apps on the device 46%
  • List of just the apps used for work 29%
  • The information in the apps used for work 29%
  • Company email and attachments 21%
  • Company contacts 20%

Overall, respondents were most concerned with their employer seeing personal communications, such as email and text messages. Surprisingly, less than half flagged location as a concern.

Age not country determines the Trust Gap
There was little variation across countries however, people 18-34 years old were noticeably less comfortable (selecting 'not very comfortable' or 'not at all comfortable') with their employer seeing their data than people over 55 years old (respondent base where applicable1):

  • Texts: 68% for people 18-34 compared with 53% for people 55+
  • Personal email and attachments: 67% for people 18-34 compared with 59% for people 55+
  • Photos: 64% for people 18-34 compared with 49% for people 55+
  • Personal contacts: 61% for people 18-34 compared with 54% for people 55+
  • Videos: 61% for people 18-34 compared with 49% for people 55+
  • Voicemails: 58% for people 18-34 compared with 50% for people 55+
  • Details of calls and Internet usage: 57% for people 18-34 compared with 47% for people 55+
  • Info in all the apps: 57% for people 18-34 compared with 49% for people 55+
  • Location: 54% for people 18-34 compared with 39% for people 55+
  • List of all the apps: 50% for people 18-34 compared with 39% for people 55+
  • List of company apps: 32% for people 18-34 compared with 24% for people 55+
  • Info in just the company apps: 32% for people 18-34 compared with 22% for people 55+
  • Company email and attachments: 25% for people 18-34 compared with 15% for people 55+
  • Company contacts: 23% for people 18-34 compared with 16% for people 55+

What employers can do to increase employee trust
When asked what is the single most important thing an employer could do to increase the employee's trust in the employer's commitment to protecting privacy, respondents wanted clear communication.

  • 26% said the most important thing their employers could do is to explain in detail the purpose of seeing certain information on the device, and how they separate the personal content from work content. This option was especially popular in Germany, with 34% choosing this answer.
  • 20% would like their employers to ask their permission in writing before accessing anything on the device.
  • 18% would prefer written notification about what their employers can see and what they cannot.
  • 18% want a promise in writing that their employers would only look at company information and not personal information.
  • 15% want a written request from their employers asking for their permission before accessing anything on my device not relating to work content.

The facts: what the employer can actually see:

  • Carrier and country
  • Make, model, OS version
  • Device identifier (e.g. IMEI)
  • Phone number
  • Complete list of apps installed
  • Location of device
  • Battery level
  • Storage capacity and use
  • Corporate email and attachments (via Exchange server same as PC)
  • Corporate contacts (via Exchange server same as PC)

The facts: what the employer cannot see:

  • Information in apps – unless the app has been built to transmit information to a corporate server
  • Personal email and attachments
  • Texts
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Web browsing activity
  • Voicemails

*Represents visibility on iOS, but will vary by mobile operating system and employer policy.

1Notes on respondent base:
Respondents were asked about comfort levels according to a list of smart device data functions. The figures in the list above exclude the proportion of respondents for which the data function was not applicable. Size of the respondent base therefore varies in size for each data function. The full data sets, including those that selected Not Applicable, are freely available on request.

Survey methodology
The MobileIron Trust Gap Survey surveyed consumers in three markets: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. From June 14 to 18, 2013, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,997 randomly selected adults who are in employment across the UK (993), US (1,004) and Germany (1,000). The sample was balanced using age, gender and regional data. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About MobileIron
The leader in security and management for mobile apps, documents, and devices, MobileIron's mission is to enable global companies to become Mobile First organizations, embracing mobility as their primary IT platform in order to transform their businesses and increase their competitiveness. Recognized by IDC as the fastest growing mobile enterprise management vendor in the world, MobileIron provides the scalable architecture, rapid innovation, and best practices for global companies to transform into Mobile First organizations. Leading global companies use MobileIron as the foundation for their Mobile First initiatives, including 8 of the top 10 automotive manufacturers, 7 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, 5 of the top 10 banks, 5 of the top 10 law firms, and 4 of the top 10 retailers. For more information, please visit www.mobileiron.com.

SOURCE MobileIron