Is mandatory BYOD coming?

Government agencies are being encouraged to consider implementing BYOD and requiring employee participation. Is that a good thing for workers?

Would you be in favor of mandatory BYOD?

Last week the White House, along with the Digital Services Advisory Group and the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, released a toolkit to help guide federal agencies considering implementing BYOD programs. As our colleagues at CITEworld describe, the toolkit offers case studies, sample policies and a general rundown of the issues involved with BOYD so federal agencies can make informed decisions about whether and how to implement such a program. It’s an excellent resource, not just for government agencies, but for any organization considering BYOD.

As the Federal Times points out, however, there’s one potentially significant aspect of the guidelines that could easily be missed: the potential mandatory employee participation in BYOD. Agencies aren’t mandated to implement BYOD, nor if they do implement it, to make it mandatory within their organization. The guidelines simply say to, “Consider voluntary vs. mandatory participation in BYOD program and impact on terms of service.”

This, of course, raise the specter of requiring workers to participate in BYOD. No government agencies currently require it, though there is precedent in the private sector. In these days of budget cutting and deficits it’s not hard to imagine a time when government workers would be required to provide their own devices. The new guidelines encourage agencies to at least consider it.

What would mandatory BYOD (in government agencies or elsewhere) mean for employees? I’ve written recently about the downsides to BYOD from the employee’s perspective, and those issues would all apply in this case. However, they take on a whole new meaning if employees have no choice but to BYOD.

Take, for example, the obvious effect of transferring the costs of buying and supporting devices from the company to the employee. Does buying a smartphone (and paying the ongoing service charges) now become a condition of employment for workers? Some of the costs can be offset by reimbursements from the employer. However, bear in mind that the difference between the company buying a device and giving it to a worker and the worker buying the device and being reimbursed by the company, is that if the device is lost, stolen or damaged, the employee is the one on the hook for replacement or repair costs.

The other big issue of mandatory BYOD? Privacy. Since some companies use MDM to manage remote devices and to impose and enforcement usage policies, requiring BYOD could now effectively mean that employers require access to - and control over - your personal device as a condition of employment. Some have likened this to being asked to hand over your Facebook login to your employer.

I’m generally a fan of BYOD from the employee's perspective and can certainly see the advantage for the employer. If the program is optional and the policies are laid out clearly to workers, whatever they may be, then, fine. Employees can evaluate the options and make their own choices. However, mandatory participation in BYOD feels a lot more like a penalty for workers and the potential for abuse by employers seems significant.

Would your feelings about BYOD change if participation was mandatory? Come on, now, don't be shy. Let us know!

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