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Pitfalls of ‘Bring Your Own Device’

WSJ City passes on word that “Work Phones Are Being Phased Out at Banks.”

It has long been considered a standard part of a City worker’s tool kit, but the work phone could be on the way out as banks seek to encourage individuals to use their personal devices.

Banks including Citi, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan are among those making changes to how they expect employees to handle work email and out-of-office calls as they attempt to rein in costs and allow bankers flexibility on what technology they use, Financial News reports.

This has rather obvious downsides. But WSJC picks out the one I wasn’t thinking about:

While cost is a factor, banks are also taking advantage of the fact that they are now more able to make devices secure using applications such as the BlackBerry-backed Good app, which JP Morgan will use, or even relying on its own software, as is the case with Goldman Sachs – which is also keen to push the number of its staff using BYOD, one person at the bank said – with Orbit Mail.

However, Jack Gold, the president of US-based research and analysis firm J Gold Associates, said security is an issue.

If an issue arises and a company wants to wipe or get into someone’s personal phone then many would say no for privacy reasons, Gold said.

The more obvious issue, to me, is that it means employees are never off work. Given the nature of what I do, I routinely give my personal mobile phone and email addresses to students and professional contacts. But I certainly wouldn’t do that working at a bank. Wouldn’t customers naturally think they were using the business number and call it when they needed assistance? Even if it happened to be the worker’s day off?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    I actually changed my work e-mail password to something rather difficult. It is automatically entered on my work computer, but I don’t remember it so I can’t (easily) access my work e-mail at home. It’s been a dream to be actually off work for the weekend.

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  2. Cheryl Rofer says:

    No job for you unless you have your own phone!

    This is a logical outgrowth of the thinking of the “sharing economy.” If you think that Uber and Lyft are great, you should think this is great too.

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  3. Rafer Janders says:

    An even more obvious issue at financial institutions is that many calls are automatically taped as part of compliance procedures. How are you going to do that with thousands of individuals cell phones?

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  4. Rafer Janders says:

    What happens on the day you lose or forget your phone at home? No one can get in touch with you while you’re at work?

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  5. Scott says:

    My wife’s a teacher and her cell phone is her work phone. Hasn’t posed a problem yet but at some point, there will be a nut job parent who will make her life miserable.

    If an issue arises and a company wants to wipe or get into someone’s personal phone then many would say no for privacy reasons

    This could be an interesting problem. If you use your personal phone for work, then the firm probably will exercise some intellectual property rights to the contents of that phone. It will be in the fine print of the employment contract that HR will give you. That is just a guess on my part.

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  6. James Pearce says:

    The more obvious issue, to me, is that it means employees are never off work.

    In theory, such flexibility can go both ways. “Out but available” could mean a late night call on a Saturday, but it could also mean a Tuesday morning doctor’s appointment.

    This kind of thing only affects certain professions, and even then, unequally. The plumber or locksmith may think of 24X7 access as a business opportunity, while the harried accounting manager may just think of it as a drag.

    Long run, I think the BYOD trend is going to make the control freaks very queasy.

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  7. C. Clavin says:

    Are they paying for the phones?
    Our firm supplies phones to partners, principles, and associates, and pays for the service contracts.
    To date the only issue has been data usage.
    But we are not JP Morgan or Citi. I can see issues for massive organizations.
    In terms of never being off work…it’s really not that hard to ignore email or text messages or even phone calls if you want to.

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  8. bookdragon says:

    @Scott: That is already the case where I work. They do not require BYOD, but if you do bring your own cell phone and it’s determined that data is on it that the company considers sensitive, they can confiscate it.

    btw, in light of all the outrage over possible security issues with HRC having BYOD to carry only one, financial institutions encouraging this is almost laughable.

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  9. But I certainly wouldn’t do that working at a bank. Wouldn’t customers naturally think they were using the business number and call it when they needed assistance?

    Most likely you do still have a “work number”, it’s just that the company phone system forwards calls to that number to your cell phone instead of to a phone at your desk.

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  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @C. Clavin:

    In terms of never being off work…it’s really not that hard to ignore email or text messages or even phone calls if you want to.

    It’s not that hard to ignore them, but it’s not so easy to ignore the consequences, next day, of an irate client or boss yelling at you because you didn’t respond to them in time.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    This has been going on for ages. My personal phone is my work phone, my pager, a tiny video conferencing unit, and has access to my work email and our internal chat.

    It means I am always within three feet of a mechanism for rage quitting. 2am, wake up and decide I am done? It’s right there, on the nightstand charging, and all I have to do it go to the email app, type a quick resignation email and hit send.

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  12. Ron Beasley says:

    Even if it happened to be the worker’s day off?

    Salaried people have no days off. First it was the pager and later cell phones. I was an engineer in electronic manufacturing and was on call 24/7 and that has been going on for 30 years.

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  13. Ratufa says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    But, there’s a difference between being “on call”, in the sense that you’re available to respond to (infrequent) emergencies 24×7, and being expected to, as a matter of course, spend a good chunk of your weekends doing regular, non-urgent, work.

    We’re increasingly moving towards a workplace where employers expect workers to read and respond to e-mail during weekends and vacations, and to routinely spend weekends catching up on a workload that is too large to be done during a once-normal work week.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders: Sure it is. “I quit.”

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  15. WR says:

    I thought if you used your own device for work you should be sent to jail, or even hanged for treason. That’s what the trolls around here keep telling us, anyway.

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  16. Tyrell says:

    @Scott: That is very true. Few schools have a phone access in or near the classroom. The phones are usually in the office and teachers often have to wait in a line to use them.
    Some schools have a “bring your device” day to reward students for behavior or a good grade. Others let students use their devices to read books that can be loaded onto them. School supplied technology (desktops, notebooks) are never enough for the numbers of students. Often the servers can’t carry the load. The desktops usually are always a few years behind.

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  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    that it means employees are never off work.

    I think that’s supposed to be the feature of the idea, not an obstacle to implementation.

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  18. Davebo says:

    There are applications out there to manage BYOD mobile devices and separate the personal from the professional and they are getting much better.

    AirWatch is a good one but there are others out there. It’s definitely a fast growing tech sector.

    That said, I urge clients to avoid allowing BYOD with employees.

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