Dear, oh dear! The Privacy Wars escalated on Friday when one country’s Privacy Protection Commission stated that Facebook “tramples on European law.” Once again the issue appears to hinge on what privacy rights people should have. And it is by no means clear that a consensus of these rights will come any time soon.
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Earlier in the week I read that Myrna Arias, a former Bakersfield sales executive, allegedly was fired because she removed a GPS location application from her smartphone. Her opinion: "This intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Mmm! What is the definition of a reasonable person? If you remember back to November of last year, it was alleged that Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber NYC, was using similar GPS location functionality to track the movements of the rather attractive Johana Bhuiyan, a BuzzFeed reporter. It was alleged that Mr. Moler admitted to using the functionality and clearly saw nothing wrong in doing so. Historically, we in our society have been able to reach consensus on issues of ethics given sufficient time. However technology is changing so quickly that what one large group of people regard as unethical may be regarded as acceptable by another large group; and the divide may be based on age, socio-economic status or geography/historical development. The latter is exemplified by the current argument between Facebook and Belgium and by the recent court defeat of Google by the Spanish Data Protection Agency in the now famous Right to be Forgotten case. Clearly the Europeans have a different sense of what a reasonable person would think than, say, U.S. based technology executives. Who is right? Is anyone right? I suspect that many people-managers would agree with me that spying on staff is morally wrong. Indeed you probably don’t even wish to know where your employees go during their free time. The problem for employers however is that the high profile cases that appear in the media make it seem that most businesses are tracking their employees via their mobile devices, especially via devices that have MDM solutions installed. Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions, also known as containerized solutions, allow businesses to track not only the position of mobile devices but also what the devices are being used for. I believe that close to zero companies are actually tracking the movements of their employees, however sadly a few do. Hence whenever a business tries to impose an MDM solution on reluctant staff, a proportion of that staff will suspect ulterior motives. Their view is that a reasonable person would find this level of monitoring unethical. Besides, most employees only require their mobile devices to handle emails, calendar appointments, contact lists and telephone calls; and a secure viewer solution offers all of these functions without scaring staff with privacy issues. It is possible to keep mobile devices secure without raising privacy concerns - find out how, here.