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How to Remotely Wipe an Employee's Cell Phone

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

It's a power that employers rarely use, but perhaps all should consider: How to remotely wipe cell phones that contain sensitive information -- especially when the phones get stolen.

All you need is an email address to command to a cell phone to self-destruct. Employers send the command via their company's email server.

But before you go wild with the power to wipe, experts say to make sure your workers have agreed to it. Otherwise they may take issue with the data destruction -- and could possibly take you to court.

Case in point: A woman whose employer remotely wiped her personal cell phone by accident, NPR reports. All company-related email was instantly destroyed -- along with everything else, from photos to personal contact lists.

That kind of remote wiping could be grounds for a lawsuit, as one expert told NPR:

Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, says he's not sure what a court would say about a company that wipes an employee's phone without permission.

But he says he'd like to find out: "I'm salivating right now at the prospect of this lawsuit."

A signed waiver and a cell phone policy could help prevent litigation, Inc. suggests. The waiver should include the power to remotely wipe cell phones, along with any other device that can access the company's email system, IT experts say.

Home computers and tablets like iPads should also be included, they say.

Security concerns are numerous -- such as theft by corporate spies or disgruntled employees who share sensitive data online.

That's why remotely wiping cell phones is used as a last resort, giving employers peace of mind in a sensitive piece of equipment.

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