BYOD: ICO Survey and Guidance

March 7, 2013

A survey commissioned by the ICO has shown many employers appear to have a ‘laissez faire’ attitude to allowing staff to use their personal laptop, tablet computer or smartphone for work business, which may be placing people’s personal information at risk.

The online survey, carried out by YouGov (with a total sample size of 2,151), reveals that 47% of all UK adults now use their personal smartphone, laptop or tablet computer for work purposes. But less than 3 in 10 who do so are provided with guidance on how their devices should be used in this capacity. The ICO considers that this raises worrying concerns that people may not understand how to look after the personal information which is accessed and stored on these devices.

The ICO has now published guidance on BYOD, explaining some of the risks organisations must consider when allowing personal devices to be used to process work-related personal information. The guidance explains how BYOD can be adopted safely and in a manner that complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Simon Rice, Group Manager (Technology), said:

‘The rise of smartphones and tablet devices means that many of the common daily tasks we would have previously carried out on the office computer can now be worked on remotely. While these changes offer significant benefits to organisations, employers must have adequate controls in place to make sure this information is kept secure.

The cost of introducing these controls can range from being relatively modest to quite significant, depending on the type of processing being considered, and might even be greater than the initial savings expected. Certainly the sum will pale into insignificance when you consider the reputational damage caused by a serious data breach. This is why organisations must act now.

Our guidance aims to help organisations develop their own policies by highlighting the issues they must consider. For example, does the organisation know where personal data is being stored at any one time? Do they have measures in place to keep the information accurate and up-to-date? Is there a failsafe system so that the device can be wiped remotely if lost or stolen?’

The guidance explains how organisations need to be clear on the types of personal data that can be processed on personal devices and have remote locate and wipe facilities in place so the confidentiality of the data can be maintained in the event of a loss or theft.

Other key recommendations include:

·        be clear with staff about which types of personal data may be processed on personal devices and which may not

·        use a strong password to secure your devices

·        enable encryption to store data on the device securely

·        ensure that access to the device is locked or data automaticaly deleted if an incorrect password is input too many times

·        use public cloud-based sharing and public backup services, which you have not fully assessed, with extreme caution, if at all

·        register devices with a remote locate and wipe facility to maintain confidentiality of the data in the event of a loss or theft.

The YouGov survey shows that e-mail is the most common work activity carried out on a personal device, accounting for 55% of people who use their personal smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer for work purposes. This was followed by 37% who used a personal device to edit work documents and 36% to store work documents. All of these activities are likely to involve the processing of personal information.

Read our ‘bring your own device’ guidance (pdf)

Download the YouGov survey in full (.xls)