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Remotely wiping mobile phones

Sep 25, 2010, 23:04 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jake Edge)

"A mobile phone "feature" that is touted as a way to remove data from stolen phones is also being used in far less reasonable ways. It is, or could be seen as, an anti-feature added for the benefit of companies, but without taking users' needs into consideration. The "remote wipe" available for (at least) Android, iOS, and Palm's webOS allows Exchange administrators to remotely reset logged-in mobile phones—removing all personal data and resetting them to factory defaults.

"The amount of sensitive information that is stored on mobile phones today—especially smartphones—is quite substantial. It is no surprise that both companies and individuals are worried about those phones falling into the wrong hands. Under those circumstances, one can well imagine that being able to remotely wipe that data as quickly as possible would be seen as a nice feature.

"But there are a number of concerns with the current approach. As Nathan Hamblen reports on his blog, remote wipe is currently being misused by Exchange administrators to punish users who access their corporate email from unapproved devices. In many, perhaps most, cases, those unapproved devices are the personal property of a user who is just trying to get their work done. One can understand administrators wanting to impose draconian access rules, and even to enforce them, but punishing users by deleting their photos, applications, and other personal data seems just a tad beyond the pale."

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