A future with mobile access to everything, but at what cost?

C. Laughren    July 16, 2015

Web references: IABCCNBCForbes,  Tech Republic

Image_mobile on subway commute

It’s become so easy. We just slip them into our pocket or bag, and off we go without a second thought. We’re constantly connected to friends, family and frequently our work. Tweets, posts, emails, pictures, video clips, calls – all allow us to remain up-to-date, get things done, and find information quickly, at anytime from anywhere on our social media sites.

Ten years ago, social media was a novelty; today the use of social sites is an everyday reality. And, this demand for connection – for the continued integration of our lives through a social network – is driving the desire for increasingly sophisticated mobile devices.

Image_all on one screen

With 80% of global Internet users owning a smartphone and 47% owning tablets, we’re past the tipping point of mobile device usage. Not surprisingly, 2014 marked the first time adults in the U.S. accessed the Internet more through mobile apps than through personal computers. More than half of their Internet time (three hours per day on average) is spent using smartphones and tablets.

survey Internet users owning x_shortenedThe proliferation of mobile devices is assuredly reaching well into the future. And with this trend, we’re carrying greater amounts of online information in our back pockets. Does this mean we’re putting ourselves at greater risk? Absolutely, we could lose our device, break the screen, drop it in a pool, or worse…leave the information vulnerable to viruses and hackers.

When it comes to our social media sites, 53 percent of users reported their accounts had been hacked in the last year, with a surprising 79 percent having received a suspicious message, frequently more than once. As for setting the appropriate security measures, 64 percent believed users themselves were responsible, compared with 17 percent pointing to their Internet service provider and 12 percent to the social media sites.

While acknowledging responsibility is important, “more than half of U.S. adult social media users say they have not read the most recent privacy policy for their social account(s),” said ESET researcher Stephen Cobb. If users haven’t read the policies, they haven’t engaged in the most recent updates. That doesn’t sound good.

Survey privacy policy resp.

ESET survey results


Most people I know have a mobile device which blends their personal and work information. I decided to ask IT Director P. Yates, a tech industry professional with 20 plus years in corporate management, how the fusion of personal and work information affects business security today and what it could mean for the future:

Do users understand the significance of their responsibility to protect business information on their personally-owned mobile devices?

What steps do businesses take to protect their proprietary information on employees’ mobile devices?


Social media privacy seems like a contradiction. How do you see the future of privacy protection evolving in the future?

The mobility of social sites presents an enormous opportunity for marketing departments to connect with consumers as we move forward. Company IT teams want to enable these developments to grow business. We appreciate the high utility value of social mobility. Our challenge is to stay on top of the rapidly changing environment and maintain a set of clear expectations for employee usage.

Something for everyone to remember – if you’re suspicious about an email, or think you’ve made a mistake or even broken company policy, talk to your IT team. Leaving something unsaid can exacerbate a potential issue. It’s much better to catch it at the beginning.


Lessons for others:

Technology is allowing us to merge ourselves into a giant digital sphere of social connectivity. It’s supposed to be fun, collaborative, and insightful. So it’s easy to overlook the potential consequences of leaving our information unprotected. It’s important to be vigilant and get good habits into place now– before our social mobility becomes more complex. Here are a few easy tips:

  1. Adopt the attitude that your privacy is important. It’s not about relying on an app or spam filter to protect your information.
  2. Put a password on your phone. Sounds basic enough, but many people don’t do it. Having no password leaves your information completely open to whoever picks up your device.
  3. Make it a point to check your security settings for each social site on a monthly basis. Schedule an appointment to do this in your calendar. Security settings are evolving as marketing becomes more sophisticated. Stay on top of it.
  4. For all work-related information, take the time to understand your responsibilities to protect the information you’re carrying around or have access to.

For more tips about managing your online information, Reputation.com has compiled five of the top social media privacy concerns for 2014 and what you can do about them.


Submitted by: C. Laughren, University of Waterloo

To contact the author of this entry, please email at: claughre@uwaterloo.ca

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.