Last week, one of Microsoft’s Lync team announced a new reporting tool for Lync Online. The new Lync Online Client Devices Report monitors which mobile devices have been used to access Lync Online.

Announcing the Lync Online Client Devices Report – Office Blogs

Report data is collected on number of users, which device they used & when, and what kind of services they accessed (IM, calls, conferencing, video).

Useful data. For a lot of reasons. However, it brings up a very large concern. What about BYOD users?

Which Trumps: Work Flexibility or Privacy?

Essentially, the Client Devices Report means that administrators can spy on any device used to access their Lync Online service.

Client Devices Report - Courtesy of Office Blogs

Now, it’s important to make a distinction here. Many businesses are concerned about the BYOD trend eroding their IT security. With good reason, in our opinion. These are devices brought into & out of the office all the time. Most with very little (if any) administrative or security oversight.

However, privacy is also a concern. Examining users’ conversations on their personal devices? Too easy to cross the line and just spy on everything they do. And users know that.

Privacy vs. Protection

The delicate balance between safeguarding the office network and protecting user privacy is detailed in an October 21 piece on CMSWire by David Roe:

Microsoft Lync Can Spy on Enterprise BYOD Use – CMSWire

David makes a valid point about mobile malware. BYOD IS a security risk…we even documented evidence of such in a newsletter article last year:
10 Ways BYOD Threatens Network Security AND Your Private Data

That said, these are still personal devices. They may be used for work, but in many cases the user/owner has files they want to keep separate/private from work.

Lync is sort of a middle-ground. It’s intended for business communication, between all its services, and as such falls under most business’ intellectual property restrictions.

If You Institute Spying, Make It Clear

Frankly, I don’t think the BYOD trend will reverse anytime soon. Big manufacturers keep pushing out new devices. People will bring them into work & want to use them FOR work.

Since Lync’s primary purpose is office communication, there’s enough justification for instituting tracking with this new tool. But it’s also important to make clear what you are tracking and why.

  1. Maybe you want to maintain efficiency by using the data.
  2. Or you’re tracking to keep malware out of the network.
  3. Or maybe you’re measuring communications to identify where users are most productive.

All very good business reasons. Just make sure the employees KNOW your reasons.

My stance on the Lync Online Client Devices Report tool? If a client opted for Lync Online, and they had multiple employees with BYOD tablets, then I would recommend using this report tool. If nothing else, for 3-6 months as a data test.

Inform all users beforehand. Give the BYOD users the option of not bringing their devices into work. And make sure everyone knows that you’re collecting business data only, for business reasons.

Lync Online as a Testing Ground? Lync Server 2013 Next?

I didn’t see a version for Lync 2013 in the announcement. This tool (right now) is meant only to track Lync Online/Office 365 users. But I’m sure an on-premises version will come.

Could releasing the Client Devices Report tool for Lync Online first be a testing ground? Since it’s cloud-based anyway, data has to come & go between device and cloud server. Maybe Microsoft wants to examine which devices use what Lync services.

Or examine the workplace’s reaction to a new way of spying on users.

The new reporting tool will be available next month. We’ll see what kind of response it generates then. I have a feeling it’ll be a big one.

What do you think about tracking BYOD Lync data? Harmless data gathering, or invasion of privacy? Please comment or email me.

Should You Spy on BYOD Users? The New Lync Online Client Devices Report Lets You
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