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Mar 09, 2015

How Effective BYOD Policies Can Help Limit Legal Exposure

In and of themselves, BYOD programs don't pose legal issues to companies that use them. However, when employees circumvent organizational security protocols to access work-related systems—such as policies against accessing insecure public WiFi networks—this exposes the organization to uncontrolled levels of risk, as do other aspects of connectivity to systems that contain sensitive corporate and customer information. Employees aren’t necessarily familiar with the security risks associated with using personal devices that contain proprietary company and customer information. Potential liabilities associated with BYOD programs can include:

  • Lost or stolen devices that are either unsecured or unencrypted where sensitive organizational data can fall into the wrong hands.
  • An employee violates a breach notification law such as the breach notification rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  • Data transfers that occur across national borders that may violate international or country-specific laws.
  • If an employee is on a business call and is involved in an automobile accident while driving, the employer can be sued for damages along with the employee—even if the employee is using a hands-free device, according to case law.
  • Transfer of data deemed to represent trade secrets.

Although BYOD programs don’t necessarily introduce new liabilities facing mobile enterprises, initiatives should nevertheless be accompanied with the right BYOD policies and companies should do their due diligence in regards to addressing privacy, surveillance, and data security concerns Given these and other liability concerns associated with the use of employee-owned devices containing corporate data, well-crafted and clearly communicated BYOD policies can enable companies to limit their legal exposure. For starters, BYOD policies should provide clarity on how the program is structured along with the responsibilities of the organization, its employees, and business partners. Meanwhile, policies should include the device types that are permitted for use under a BYOD program as well as access rights. It’s also helpful to have employees actively accept the terms of an organization’s BYOD policies before allowing them to access and download enterprise mobile apps.


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