New BYOD trouble ahead via Android for Work

byod lead image

IT-managed apps are marked with a lock icon in the “L” Developer Preview.

Credit: Android

The future should be looking more favorable for workplace Bring-Your-Own-Device, or BYOD, with Android’s upcoming embrace. But is it really? Someone’s forgotten something.

Android’s latest incarnation, Android “L,” will include features that are geared towards making it easier for enterprise, and maybe workers, to BYOD.

That's a good thing, right? Employees could put in more hours with their preferred BYOD devices.

Capgemini is one consultant who says workers get more satisfaction and increase productivity when using BYOD.

That may be true, but watch out, because there are pitfalls, and not just the obvious data-leakage ones. Some employees don’t trust employers with their privacy. And that could unravel the entire movement, particularly if initial propaganda about “L” and its Android for Work sobriquet is accurate.

What is Android for Work?

Android for Work will separate personal and work data in the new “L” Android operating system and add a layer of security. Android “L” is expected to propagate from Mountain View, like an amoebic spawn, to some devices in the fall.

So what?

If you’re an IT manager, you’re probably thinking this is going to make life a bit easier and secure your enterprise’s ones-and-zeroes a little better. After all, that data is currently floating around like barefoot hippies at an Allman Brothers concert. So, roll it on.

Only it might not be that easy.

Problems

We’re well aware of the arguments against BYOD brought by employers, including the concerns relating to viruses, hacking risks, and awkward, stolen data getting to the media.

And then there are also some more bizarre reasons, include the idea that, even if an employee is using his own phone, the corporate one is still charging, costing the company money.

Ann Newman discussed that in a superb infographic in the Tech Page One blog. She’s pulled together an informative set of some of the (often bizarre) reasons a BYOD solution in the enterprise can be a disaster. Tech Page One is a Dell blog.

BYOD downsides

With a nod to Newman, and for some background, here are some of the downsides to BYOD from a company’s perspective:

Employees could run-up expenses, like data overages and roaming, in exotic locales.

Additionally, employee data access on BYOD devices might not be in line with legal regulations because corporate BYOD polices aren’t.

Or employees could become idle laggards, aimlessly fiddling with Facebook and Snapchat.

Plus, don’t forget that cloud data is not in the control of the company, and even more likely to be out of control on the consumer cloud services the employee chooses.

And then there’s the issue that employees sometimes don’t report lost or stolen devices for weeks, which delays a full remote wipe.

There is also a concern that overtime lawsuits could become prevalent because BYOD allows workers to operate outside of office hours.

My favorite, though, in addition to the dastardly, excessive use of wall warts, is that the blocking of distracting, time-wasting games on BYOD devices can cause conflict in the workplace.

Presumably, that means Flappy Bird withdrawal might cause a worker to go postal.

Employer trust

One thing Newman also mentions in her article, and perhaps more seriously, because it could trip-up BYOD altogether, is that many employees don’t trust their employers with their personal data.

That point was also touched-on in a Webroot survey of both employees and employers completed in March 2014, which said that it had found evidence that employers only pay “lip service” to consulting with employees over BYOD security.

Could employer trust be a BYOD issue that Android “L” might be addressing?

Android “L” will be the first time that we've seen wide-scale BYOD functionality in a device OS, and Google, during its Google I/O 2014 developers’ conference, indicated that corporate and personal data would be separated with security in this “L” release.

However, startlingly, pretty much all the coverage I’ve seen, including the Google pitch video for the BYOD element in "L," doesn't mention the employees' protection of his or her data from the employer. Android at Work is all about creating a secure area within the device for the enterprise and securing the business-sensitive data.

We’re not going to know for sure how this plays until we see a release. And for now I’ll give Google the benefit of the doubt. But Android “L” might have a bit of work ahead of it if the Android at Work video is accurate.

Trip-up

The way it is right now, it isn’t going to be the well-documented IT mistrust of BYOD that causes it to fail. That’s a red herring, and it’s actually going to be the employees’ mistrust of employers that thwarts the whole thing.

If we’re not careful, we’ll all be fielding multiple phones into the distant future.

And if so, I’m going for that groovy, retro Kyocera flip-phone that I know IT has hidden away with my metaphorical name on it.

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