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Guidance promotes, with qualifications, use of personal smartphones for work

Aug. 23, 2012 - 02:52PM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments
Agencies are encouraged to consider programs allowing employees to use their personal smartphones and mobile devices for work.
Agencies are encouraged to consider programs allowing employees to use their personal smartphones and mobile devices for work. (Karen Bleier / AFP via Getty Images)

Governmentwide guidance released Thursday encourages agencies to consider programs allowing employees to use their personal smartphones and mobile devices for work.

While the guidance cautions that “bring your own device” — or BYOD — programs may not be right for all agencies because of security and legal challenges, BYOD “also enables employees the flexibility to work in a way that optimizes their productivity” and “can and should be cost-effective.”

The guidance, one of several action items required under the administration’s Digital Government Strategy released in May, is a toolkit of sample documents for developing BYOD policies, and case studies of successful programs.

Agencies are not required to have BYOD programs, but the guidance says one factor agencies should consider is whether programs should be mandatory.

For now, agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have made their BYOD programs voluntary for employees and are not requiring them to turn in their government-issued BlackBerrys or other mobile devices. The state of Delaware has a voluntary program, but only reimburses employees who turn in their government BlackBerrys.

While the administration is still grappling with issues such as reimbursement for employees who use their personal devices, the guidance acknowledges that these programs may “necessitate government reimbursement” and provides a model policy.

The guidance also encourages agencies to:

• Institute policies to ensure employees do not conduct work on their personal devices after hours unless directly authorized or instructed.

• Identify the right balance between personal privacy and organizational security.

• Consider implications for equal rights employment, such as disparities in the quality of personal devices.

• Clarify who owns the applications and data being accessed by personal devices.

• Ensure consistency with governmentwide standards for processing and storing federal data.

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