bring your own device security privacyCongratulations, you have a new job and the company allows you to use your own device. In today’s tight job market many people are thrilled to have a position and are further pleased when told that they can use their own device at work. In many cases this is a “win win.” However, have you considered fully what is going on with the communications and data on your device?

By “device” I’m referring to anything that connects to the company servers or network. This includes a computer, laptop, tablet and/or smartphone.  The company network and server can be as simple as the wireless access point in the office for Internet or email service or as complicated as custom applications with encrypted VPN access.

First, there is no presumption of privacy at work as it relates to web browsing, email, or other activity. Yes, it is true, the cute message you sent to that special someone in your life or the website regarding an odd hobby you have that you visited during a break is not private and can be reviewed by company management regardless of your device.

Most people who have an iPhone love to use it. Consequently when given the choice, they opt to use their iPhone or similar device to have access to their email, calendar, tasks, and contacts while mobile; this is good for everyone involved since it can free up time for the employee as well as make them more productive. The developers of systems that provide the mail, calendar, tasks, and contacts work hard so things are readily available across all devices, including computers in and out of the office, smartphones, tablets, and web browser access. They also work hard at having things fully synchronize so that data is more difficult to lose. This is typically a great feature to have until you realize you may not want fellow employees to have access to your personal contacts, including “Uncle Sketchy” whose address includes prisoner number XXX. By being careful and selective about how the device is configured, typically you can keep different accounts separate, but as a rule, this is not the default.

My office manager brought up a good point a few months ago. I used over 6GBs of data with my smartphone in one month. The plan we are on has unlimited data, so it didn’t matter financially; it was more of a conversation starter since we are all pretty boring around here. But had this been with a provider that charges for excess bandwidth, I may have been charged with additional fees. And unlike telephone calls, it is difficult at best to prove whether the bandwidth was used for frantically downloading documents while at a client site or streaming Netflix movies on the weekend. Obviously, who pays for the service and how much is something that should be considered before merrily surrendering your iPhone so that it’ll sync with the company email.

Finally, what kind of support can you expect from the company in the event things stop or are not working properly with your equipment? Imagine that malfeasant employee you did not meet during the interview process gives you a file that turns out to be a virus requiring a complete system rebuild. Who is going to spend the time to do this? You on your weekend or the company IT staff?

As with any relationship, the parties bring different perspectives, qualities, and resources that can be mutually beneficial to all if they are willing to work together. Having a frank and honest conversation with your employer can help everyone involved.

Mark Oliver is the founder of Group Oliver a technical services organization that has been in business for more than 15 years.

[Top image credit: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock]