The Few Ways Your Cellphone Could Get You Into Legal Trouble
Most people would agree that the computer is the most revolutionary technology in the workplace since maybe the printer, maybe even ever. But those people are only half right. A computer has indeed changed the way the workplace functions, but it’s not that hulking monstrosity from the 1980s that required an entire server room to keep running. Nope, it’s that small one sitting in your pocket.
Lets consider: Computers have long made communication, writing, and storing information efficient, but those jobs still could have been done, just in a longer way. Smartphones, however, made the entire process mobile. Really, for a good number of jobs these days, people don’t even have to go into work. If you have a connection, you can go anywhere.
So what’s the reward for this game changing technology? It’s… a ton of rules to make sure it doesn’t go wrong. A bummer? Yeah, of course. But it’s more of a bummer when secret company information gets stolen and you’re the one to blame. Or your entire phone (which these days, could be practically your entire life) gets wiped because you didn’t read a company policy quite closely enough.
Here are six possible ways your cellphone phone could cause you some trouble should you use it for work.
1. Logging in from an unsecured network.
These days, security is paramount—just ask anyone who shopped at Target or was covered by Anthem insurance over the past couple of years. This goes double for anybody who holds private company information, because if it gets taken from a personal device, that could mean a person’s job. So for many attorneys dealing with labor and employment issues on a daily basis, it’s baffling why some people use unsecured Wi-Fi connections to work with confidential data.
“There are lots of employees that don’t need the stuff encrypted; they don’t have that kind of information. But if you’re somebody who has confidential or proprietary access at work that you can then access through your phone, you may need different levels of encryption or protection on your phone itself that you would not have unless you were working with your corporate IT department,” said Ashley Cuttino, a shareholder at law firm Ogletree Deakins.
She added that people who work from their smartphone should look at security no differently from working from home: “If you’re going to do that, you really need to make sure you actually have a firewall, that your stuff is all up-to-date, and you know what you can and can’t access.”
2. Not separating personal information and data from work data and communications.
It used to be that companies would supply company phones, but those days are close to over, said Philip Gordon, co-chair of the privacy and background checks practice at Littler Mendelson. Instead, he said that companies want to look at phones the same way they look at an employee driving a car to and from work: whatever they choose is their own business.
“I don’t pay to replace your carburetors, I won’t pay to replace your phone. … That’s where a lot of companies would like to go,” Gordon explained.
But in 2014, a California court of appeals ruled in Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service that if an employer says that use of an employee’s phone for work purposes is mandatory, then the employer must pay for the portion of data used for work. Although this ruling applies only to California workplaces, its tentacles may very well extend to similar court rulings elsewhere soon.
But this begs the question: How will employees know what data is used for work? Cuttino said that fights over cost sharing are going back and forth in courts, and the safest way to ensure fair payment for both sides is the use of specialized software.
3. Putting crucial and important information in the wrong place.
About that specialized software… many companies today are instituting what is known as “mobile device management” (MDM). In its most common form, it is an app that the company places on a phone that will allow the company a host of options, including segmenting personal data from company data and even wiping data when it sees fit.
Laurence Liss, chief technology officer at Blank Rome, said that most, if not all, major law firms use MDM for their own employees. “Usually when a device is lost, we’ll wipe it remotely. That’s part of what the MDM software allows you to do. … If they’re leaving the firm, we just wipe the firm data, not the personal data.”
For this to function as it’s supposed to, though, an employee needs to actually separate that firm and personal data on the device. This could mean different folders for work downloads and personal downloads, or a different folder for saving documents that get sent to your work email.