Your Employer Can Be a Dictator

There was a story on NPR recently about a woman who was on a business trip when her cell phone suddenly went blank. Everything from her contacts to her photos was gone. It turns out the phone was wiped out by her employer. In her case, it was a mistake, but it’s a reminder of the immense control employers can have over things most people consider outside the realm of their employment.

In the NPR story, the woman owned the phone and paid the monthly bills. Still, her employer had access to it and even the ability to wipe it clean because she used it to receive work e-mails. Her employer’s IT department simply sent an auto-destruct command by e-mail. Many smart phones come with this capability. When you arrange to have your phone receive e-mail from the company, it gains the ability to wipe the phone or disable certain functions, like the camera or web browser. This control extends beyond phones, to iPads and other devices where work e-mail is accessed.

The remote erase feature may be a comforting if your phone is stolen. Naturally, in that situation, you would want all your personal information erased. But it makes you think twice about setting up a personal device to receive work e-mail. Some companies are very clear with employees about what happens when they sign up for company e-mail on a personal device. Many employees, however, have no clue.

You also need to be careful about what websites you access at work. If you check your Facebook account or personal e-mail at your desk, so can your employer. They can see whatever you see.

You have to work pretty hard these days to keep your personal life separate from your work life and out of your employer’s sight. This is just another area in which employers are given a lot of leeway and control.



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