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Enterprise mobility and the privacy debate

There was an interesting side conversation during the Q&A portion of a session on enterprise mobility at last week’s Gartner Catalyst Conference.

Someone asked the panel what they thought about privacy on mobile devices. What if sharing information on mobile apps gets to the point where your insurance provider knows too much about you, for example?

As we reported in a past story on enterprises’ mobile app plans, some health care providers and pharmaceutical companies are considering apps that would tell patients when to take their medication.

One audience member pondered this question: What if a health care provider decides to sell that type of information, and the next thing you know, your insurance provider shuts off your prescription because you aren’t taking the pills as scheduled?

That’s a scary scenario, but given just how much information we are willing to share over mobile devices and on social media networks, it’s not an impossibility.

But as panel moderator and Gartner analyst Paul DeBeasi said, “Only old people care about privacy,” repeating something his teenage son had said to him. His response had been that his son would care when he’s older. (What had bothered DeBeasi more than the generation gap around privacy was the possibility that information is probably being collected about people that they don’t even know about.)

But is it true that older generations are more cautious and younger generations have no privacy boundaries? The panel thought so.

“Let’s face it, younger generations are more than willing to share personal information — they want to share personal information, said panel member Randy Nunez, advanced networks and mobility director at Ford Motor Co. “And until they run into situations of ‘How does my insurance company know what my medical practices are’, until [privacy issues] start impacting them personally, there’s going to be a lot we give up in terms of privacy and security.”

Does that mean that enterprises also will have to give up a lot in terms of privacy and security? Or will the right controls around an enterprise mobility strategy put a stop to “over-sharing?” Then again, how do you balance controls when personal information is mingled with corporate data on a mobile device? And what happens when you ask employees to buy their own devices?

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email Christina Torode, News Director.

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