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Federal CIOs still say no to BYOD

Kenneth Corbin | March 4, 2013
Government IT leaders who oversee sensitive or classified information require firm device-management policies to address security concerns before they will even consider allowing workers' personal smartphones and tablets behind the firewall.

In sharp contrast to the approach that Day describes at the Coast Guard, BYOD has gotten a warm embrace at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), at least at the policy level. EEOC CIO Kimberly Hancher describes a checklist of considerations the agency weighed before rolling out a BYOD policy.

Last year, when funding cuts sapped about 15 percent of the EEOC's IT budget, Hancher and other agency leaders began to consider BYOD as a cost-saving measure. They evaluated whether the EEOC maintains any classified data that would be at risk if a user's personal device was compromised. It does not. Nor does the agency house what it considers sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) in its data centers (PII was scrubbed from the EEOC's servers a couple of years ago, according to Hancher).

Finally, agency heads affirmed that the devices EEOC employees carry with them would not offer access to critical infrastructure systems, and with that, they implemented a BYOD policy.

"For us, it was a risk-based decision to move into bring your own device," Hancher says.

Government Works Stick With Blackberry

BYOD is often understood in terms of a friction between workers and the CIO or senior security officials: Employees want to use their own devices for work, but management resists. But that wasn't the case at the EEOC.

In implementing the agency's BYOD policy, Hancher polled employees about their thoughts on the issue. Just 23 percent signed up to bring a personal device into the workplace, while the remaining 77 percent opted to stick with their government-issued BlackBerry.

"Of the people who chose to keep the government-provided devices, the majority of them felt that work and personal should be separate," Hancher says.

Others cited confusion about the rules and responsibilities they would be subjected to under a BYOD policy, and a substantial number chose not to participate simply because they don't own a smartphone.

For them, "it's not a matter of switching. They would have to go and buy -- you know, select a device -- pay for the device, pay for the voice and data service," she says. "And those are some of the reasons why the consumers -- our internal customers -- are not flocking to BYOD."


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