The smartphone that spies, and other surprises

Consumer technology is here to stay in business settings, so how do you safely embrace it?

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The dilemma posed by consumer-focused devices in a blended world
Most of the problematic devices are designed primarily for consumer usage, and today that usage is biased toward unfettered sharing. Digital cameras (not just the ones built in to smartphones) often include geolocation stamps to help you remember where the picture was taken. More and more social networking apps, such as Foursquare and Facebook, track and publish your current location -- courtesy of your smartphone -- so that your online friends can know where you are, allowing impromptu get-togethers or a reminder from your spouse to pick up a carton of orange juice while you're at the grocery store. There's even an industry that uses the technology to track kids in case they get lost.

In the business world, such tracking has long been used to make sure delivery truck drivers aren't goofing off en route, such as swinging by a favorite bar or taking the gas- and time-consuming scenic route.

There are similar examples for the use of cameras and microphones: You can deposit a check at several banks by snapping a picture on your iPhone or Android, then sending in the image. You can buy products or compare prices by scanning bar codes via the built-in camera. You can sample music and get its name and a chance to buy the song or album via apps that tap into the bult-in microphone. You can record lectures for richer note-taking. And on and on.

But the same technology that brings benefts to some can bring dangers to others. Troop location is one such example. Stalking is another -- public geolocation makes that easier, too. Cameras and audio recording are great for spying uses, whether personal, business, or government.

First steps to managing multiple-user devices
So what to do? Educating users is the first step. As I hear over and over again from security and IT pros, most people want to do the right thing -- they just don't know if they are and, if not, or how to do it.

The use of mobile management tools can help, as they can disable cameras and so forth on several popular devices. The catch is that the devices have to be actually managed -- a person who brings in a personal device and never accesses the corporate network won't ever get managed by IT's mobile management tool. Plus, even for managed devices, the tools today aren't sophisticated enough to, say, disallow use of the camera within the employer facilities but allow it elsewhere, to prevent only problematic photo-taking.

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