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Privacy Tech | Exploring the New Privacy Architecture of BYOD Related reading: Creating a BYOD Policy for Millennials, Baby Boomers and Everyone In-Between



Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), while well-intentioned, can make IT managers, CIOs and especially employees want to pull their hair out.

The downfall of most Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions is that they pose too many restrictions or too much control over the user’s device. Quite simply, they don’t have the end user in mind. An employee may conclude that the employer’s promise of EMM device containerization is more of an illusion of privacy than a real comfort because employees don’t often segregate their work and personal lives and data neatly into digital sandboxes.

The BYOD movement was brought to light by employees wanting more convenience and less restrictions, and EMM is putting us right back where we started—to the old days of restricted corporate-supplied devices.

Most companies are completely unaware that there’s another option, so they settle for something less than what successfully meets the needs of IT and their employees.

No Data on the Device

There is a better way. In the coming years, we’re going to start seeing the use of mobile apps that enable access to corporate assets on the employee’s personal device without allowing that corporate data to actually reside on the device and without segregating personal and corporate data.

There are two key benefits to this:

  • First, keeping data off the device limits the potential for compromise if the device is lost or stolen and taken offline.
  • Second, it gives employees the freedom to use their devices how they please, without worrying about trade-offs like remote wiping, invasion of privacy or a compromised user experience.

Let me give you an example.

Recently, at ZixCorp, we had several government organizations approach us saying that the “no-data-on-the-device” approach would be conducive to their work, where data spillage and the escalation of “now-confidential” information normally would eliminate BYOD as an option. For instance, contractors might be working on a project that escalates in terms of importance and confidentiality and is no longer their responsibility. This means that contractors have to bring in their personal devices to have everything wiped instead of simply deleting that unsecured data from the company server.

This approach also makes sense because the majority of employees only want or need access to one or two corporate apps, such as email. For others who need access to more data, the added controls and restrictions of EMM or MDM make the most sense. But for the most part, companies shouldn’t need to impose a second corporate-owned device or restrictions on the employee’s personal device when the solution could be as simple as downloading an app.

Significantly, without access to other aspects of the personal device, this BYOD architecture eliminates any corporate legal liability in the event employees or contractors want to sue their company for illegal actions associated with monitoring personal mobile data.

Finding the Balance Between Privacy and Convenience

It’s important to point out that with privacy and convenience, one is often sacrificed for the other—especially with BYOD. Lady Justice’s scales can never seem to balance.

It’s a given that employees expect to use their personal devices how and when they need them, but such convenience often runs counter to an IT organization’s efforts to protect corporate data.

The no-data-on-the-device approach to BYOD creates a way to close the gap between convenience and security. It offers the control, convenience and privacy that employees demand while at the same time guarantees to employers a level of security not seen by traditional BYOD solutions.

photo credit: On the Verge of Siri via photopin (license)


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  • comment Jeremy • Apr 30, 2015
    Thanks for the article.  Are there examples of these "no data on the device" mobile apps that companies are already using?  Am I right that these apps would require a net connection to access email and other data?  Does this mean I couldn't draft email responses during my subway commute?
  • comment David • Apr 30, 2015
    In line with Jeremy's question, how does it work, and is there a template which I can suggest to my clients who ask me to write a BYOD policy?
  • comment Nigel • May 5, 2015
    Thanks for the questions Jeremy and David!
    ZixOne is a mobile app that allows access to email, contacts, calendars, notes and tasks. All without leaving any data on the device. You are correct in assuming an Internet connection is required to read new information. 
    ZixOne is a good example of the "no data on device" solution I alluded to above. It connects to a ZixOne server that then connects to the mail server. Messages are retrieved by the ZixOne server and rendered into a highly efficient transport protocal that delivers the needed data to the ZixOne app. When a user has finished looking at a message, the data is erased. The transport mechanism is so efficient the user cannot tell the data is only delivered on demand.
    As far as writing an effective BYOD policy, everyone of your customers will have different needs.  I don’t think there can be a single template.  I’d ask your customers the following questions:
    1.	What business apps do most of your employees want to use?  Most will say email, calendars and contacts.
    2.	Can most of your communications be handled while online?  Most people use devices to respond to inbound information, which they can only get while online.
    3.	Do you feel a need to control devices you don’t own?  If so, are you prepared for the increased  liability of intimately knowing your employees personal lives?
    4.	Do you have the team to manage devices you don’t own? A “no data on the device” solution means you only have to manage information access, in exactly the same way you do today.
    Some companies need more than on-line access to email contacts and calendars.  Often it is a subset of the company.  We recommend that companies apply the controls they need, where they need them.  We often see a mix of solutions like ZixOne for BYOD, and MDM solutions for company owned devices.