Thinking of downloading that one last document from your employer to help with your next venture? Think again.
An employee downloading company information or emailing it to a personal email account prior to an anticipated termination may be liable for misappropriation under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. An allegation of improper downloading was sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss even if the trade secret was not improperly used. Marsteller v. ECS Federal, Inc..
The hot phrase for E-Discovery in 2014 will be “bring your own device” (BYOD). BYOD is a policy that permits employees to bring their own electronic communication devices (smartphones, tablets, computers) to their place of work to access company information. The phrase was first used in a paper by Ballagas et al., at UBICOMP in 2005. By 2011, the term was used frequently in blog articles and conversation.
As BYODs grew in popularity, companies found themselves in need of protocols and procedures to ensure company information was safe. This is how BYOD strategies were created.
Over time, BYODs have become beneficial for both parties. Employers often reimburse the employee for a portion of the device cost, some even going so far as to cover plan fees as well. BYODs enable employers to reduce their training budget since employees are often already familiar with their personal device. Additionally, reports show that BYOD employees feel empowered in their position, which yields greater productivity.
As employee’s personal devices are used more frequently with the employer’s system, the race continues to fully understand and address the legal implications. Gartner, reports that “by 2017, more than half of companies will require their employees to supply their own devices on the job…”
Employers currently have IT restrictions and programs in place to prevent employees from inadvertently releasing confidential information or accessing protected files while using the employer’s devices; however, this is not as simple with BYODs. While the employee may be more productive due to the increase in access, the employer is exposed to greater liability.
The issue now becomes, with so many questions left unanswered, how do employers ensure they do everything necessary to protect confidential information? And, what happens when things do not go as planned such as termination or early departure?
A recent survey by Acronis found that 21% of companies “perform remote wipes when an employee quits or is terminated.” In my opinion, this is a huge problem for BYOD growth. According to the Wall Street Journal, the most common complaint the nonprofit National Workrights Institute receives from workers is phone wiping — companies remotely clearing out the contents of personal smartphones that employees sometimes use for work purposes. One employer even complained of losing photos of a family member that had passed when the company wiped their device.
While the future of BYODs appear strong, the manner in which companies adopt strategies moving forward will be key. The most prudent course of action is for companies to invest money into the development of mobile application programs. While the initial investment may be substantial, over time it will be extremely advantageous. This strategy would prevent companies from drastic routes, such as wiping an employee’s device upon termination or early departure. Instead, the employer could simply restrict the access of the employee’s device to the application. Similar strategies could also be used to adjust restrictions as best practices further develop. This would allow companies with BYOD policies to adapt quickly.
The future of BYODs remains to be seen for now, but the best advice for an employee is to have a clear understanding of the synching guidelines and rules. Employees are encouraged to back up their device often, without the companies confidential information so that in the event your employer wipes your device, all your information will not be lost.