UK: "Wipe Data" & Employees' BYOD Privacy Concerns

More enterprises are using selective wiping of mobile devices as a way to protect corporate data while safeguarding employee privacy. In this article Jonathan Dale, Director of Marketing at Fiberlink, explains why.

Many organisations are embracing the influx of mobile devices and applications in the workplace, and IT departments are desperately trying to accommodate them to protect corporate data and comply with data protection requirements. According to research by Vanson Bourne, around half (52%) of businesses in the UK now authorise BYOD as a matter of policy; this will rise to almost three quarters (74%) over the next two years.  

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend offers clear advantages of familiarity and flexibility in carrying out work tasks. However, allowing employees to use their own devices to access corporate data gives rise to a number of privacy issues in a company, for example, ensuring work data will not be merged with an employee's personal data, or protecting data if a mobile device is lost or stolen.

The UK Data Protection Act 1998 states that data security is a prime concern for employers and, importantly, BYOD should not introduce vulnerabilities into existing secure environments. Consequently, it is crucial for a business to consider data protection risks at the outset of adopting a BYOD programme. With mobile device and mobile application management (MDM and MAM) solutions in place, the BYOD and Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) environment can be kept secure.

One of the most important security tools for mobile devices that store corporate data is the ability to remotely wipe sensitive information in the event a device is lost or stolen. Through analytics gathered by IBM MaaS360 across global data from BYOD and COPE devices in various industries over a 12-month period, we discovered that IT organisations are increasingly utilising remote wipe, and doing so quite often. Most companies can expect to wipe about 10-20% of their device population within a given year, and on average, we’ve found that a mobile device is wiped every three minutes.

Here is a summary of the wipe data we found:

Average Number of Wipes

  • A device gets wiped every 3 minutes
  • Per Day = 450
  • Per Hour = 19

Automated vs. Manual Wipe

  • Automated Wipe = 49%
  • Manual Wipe = 51%

Full vs Selective Wipe

  • Selective wipe = 63%
  • Full wipe = 37%


One of the biggest concerns of employees, especially in a BYOD model, is their privacy and personal data loss. The most positive trend we can see in our data is that the majority of wipes are selective (63%), which involves removing specific corporate data (email, contacts, calendar, applications and documents), while keeping personal user information and content such as music, pictures and personal mail on the mobile device completely untouched through containerisation.

Along with shared devices and lost/stolen devices, compliance issues are one of the most popular causes that lead to IT wiping a user’s device. If a user knowingly or unknowingly puts their device in a compromising situation, say by downloading an unauthorised app, a selective wipe can be done to wipe the corporate apps and content of the device to avoid any data loss. The user would receive notification regarding the policy violation and could have their data returned immediately once the unauthorised app in question is removed from the device.

Having these containerisation capabilities in an MDM solution allows IT to use native controls to isolate work data on a device, making it much easier to perform selective wipes to remove only the work data if needed.

Another prime example of remote wiping deals with reprovisioning in a COPE environment. For companies who provide mobile devices to users, device wiping is particularly effective at repurposing a device which was previously used by another employee who has moved onto a new role with a new device, or has left the company.

IT departments are leveraging remote wiping capabilities for several reasons in efforts to secure data and mitigate the risks associated with compromising data leaks.  Correct procedures and solutions integrated by IT departments can safeguard and secure content, help to accommodate employees’ expectations, increase productivity and lead to streamlined, managed workflows.


Jonathan Dale is Director of Marketing at Fiberlink


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