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Work profile: the new standard for employee privacy

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Employees increasingly demand privacy from the technology they use every day, but employers often see privacy in opposition to enterprise data security. 

Since its debut in Android 5, the work profile has secured company data on personally-owned devices while preserving employee privacy. The separation of work and personal apps means IT gets full control over work apps and data, but has no visibility into personal apps. In Android 11, we’re bringing these privacy protections to company-owned devices as well, while providing IT the additional capabilities needed to manage company assets. 

Employees demand privacy, even on company-owned devices

In a recent survey by ESG research, 71 percent of employees said they expect all personal information to remain private on work devices. This resistance to traditional full device management creates challenges for IT organizations. In fact, employee concern about privacy is the top reason mobile devices remain unmanaged by IT, according to IDC: 

“Many users of corporate-liable devices have privacy concerns about app usage and corporate IT monitoring their activity,” says Phil Hochmuth, program VP, enterprise mobility at IDC. “Due to this concern, more than a third (38 percent) of corporate-owned devices deployed in enterprises go unmanaged.”

Personal data should always stay private

Android is committed to delivering simple, consistent privacy protections to our users. Just as IT shouldn’t put company data at risk to enable mobile productivity, employees shouldn’t be asked to reveal private, personal data to their company. 

That’s why we’ve expanded Android’s commitment to employee privacy in Android 11, by bringing the privacy protections of the work profile to company-owned devices. This means IT can deploy the work profile to help protect employee privacy across their entire fleet, regardless if the device is personally or company-owned.

Always get the right level of management

To make the work profile a great tool for company asset management, we had to bring to it many of the capabilities our customers value in Android’s fully managed devices. These include: 

  • Asset management protections, even if devices are lost or stolen

  • Personal usage policies such as restricting what apps employees can use, to keep device usage in compliance with corporate policy

  • Hardware management, to restrict or prevent configuration of features like Bluetooth, cameras, and removable storage

Extending management beyond the work profile required us to separate the management of data from visibility into that data. For example, IT can block an employee from using social media apps on a company-owned device, but in doing so doesn’t need to know the other apps they use outside of work. Now Android can help preserve employee privacy in the personal profile while enabling IT management of what employees can do with the personal profile.

Work profile chart

Whoever owns the device gets to decide how the device can be used. As before, if an employee owns their device IT can only manage core security features, like preventing users from installing apps from unknown sources. But if the company owns the device, IT can now manage how users interact with the whole device. In this way, the work profile adjusts its management capabilities according to who owns the device, while offering the same privacy protections in all scenarios.

Get it first with the Android Management API

We’re pleased to announce that the Android Management API will support these work profile enhancements in July enabling customers and developers to try out these new features on the Android 11 Beta.

Exclusive to the Android Management API, we’re bringing Android 11’s new combination of strong personal privacy protections and robust asset management features to older Android devices, as far back as Android 8. This means customers can deploy a single management solution across most, if not all of their Android fleet, not only for personally- and company-owned devices but across a wide range of Android versions as well. Speak with your enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider to learn how your company can make the most of the work profile.

Prioritizing privacy

Since the beginning, we designed Android Enterprise with employee privacy at the forefront. We are looking forward to expanding that mandate into the world of company-owned devices in a way that ensures both security and privacy for employers and employees. To learn more about the privacy enhancements in the work profile and other enterprise features coming in Android 11, please visit the Android developer site.

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