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A Remote Wipe May Strand You Without Data: What Now?

While you're flying back from a business trip to a remote corner of Eastern Europe - where you don't speak the language - imagine this:  your mobile phone boarding pass disappears, and your interpreter just spun his heels and waved goodbye when you reached the security line.  No problem, you say, I'll just call <insert name of airline here> and get the boarding pass sent by email.

Then you check your email, and nothing's there.  Nor are your contacts, calendar or any other information on your cell phone.  It's blank, and so is the stare on your face.

Although you didn't know it, your phone just got (accidently) remotely wiped by your company's IT department.  Wiped.  As in erased.  Gone.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zippo.  Dead in the water.  You are suddenly stuck far, far away from help in an inhospitable place with none of the data that you've become dependent upon to live your life.

Think this secenario isn't possible?  Then ask this woman, whose phone was accidently wiped by her employer while she was on a trip from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles.  I just changed the location of the story to highlight the dangers.

She was surprised that her company was able to erase the data stored on her telephone because she owned the phone, the phone number and paid the bills.  Plus, her company hadn't told her that they had the power to wipe all data from her cell phone.

A quick search turned up no cases where employees have sued their employers over such practices, but you can bet there's one in the wings. 

It's not a hard thing to do.  Check out these easy-to-follow instructions on Microsoft's website.  If you have an iPhone, it's just as easy (provided you clicked on the right settings on your phone before you lost it).  Google claims it has the same feature, although many find it hard to use.  Blackberry does the same thing.

This feature may be new to you, but not to many corporate IT departments.

So, if you own a company and have employees who use cell phones, then you might want to consider a cell phone use policy.  Inc. Magazine offers a few tips to consider.  If you're adventurous, you can use LegalZoom to write one for you.  (In fact, I hope you do.  I get a lot of work from entrepreneurs who try to be lawyers). 

If you haven't thought about these issues, it's about time.  Someone's going to sue as this remote wipe feature is used more and more as people continue to lose their cell phones

But first, backup your cell phone.  Then call me.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 29, 2011

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