Question: Does my workplace computer policy cover mobile devices?
Answer: It depends. Although employers may monitor how employees are spending their on-line time at work, several factors determine whether employers may monitor employees' mobile devices -- such as tablet computers and smart phones -- outside of the workplace.
In the workplace, employers generally may monitor employees' work e-mail, the websites employees visit, and block access to certain websites. Outside of the workplace, it is less clear whether employees have a privacy interest in their mobile devices used for work. Some factors courts consider include the employer's past practice of monitoring mobile devices, the employer's written policy on the subject, and whether the employer pays the monthly data charge on the devices.
Improper use of mobile devices can have serious consequences for employers. For example, lost or stolen mobile devices can disclose confidential company information and jeopardize company trade secrets. Employees connecting mobile devices to both home and company networks can expose the company system to viruses and security risks.
Employers need clear policies governing the appropriate use of mobile devices for work outside of the workplace, which should be enforced consistently. Consult with an experienced attorney to assist in drafting employee handbooks, contracts, and policies that govern internet use and mobile devices to minimize litigation and information security risks.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in December 2011. Vanessa Waldref
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