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Matt Dunning

Allowing employees to work remotely increases risk of proprietary data exposure

December 15, 2013 - 6:00am



In addition to labor-related issues, permitting employees to work remotely can pose a serious threat to the security of an employer's most sensitive data, such as trade secrets, intellectual property, and customer or client information.

“Once you put someone at a remote location, if they're accessing the company's data and files — or even more importantly, customers' data and files — then you've got a real potential for employees to create liability for the company, whether willfully or not,” said Dean Rocco, a Los Angeles-based partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker L.L.P. “That's a huge issue for employers, and it needs to be looked into both for their sake and, potentially, their clients' or customers' sake.”

At minimum, employers that allow telecommuting employees to handle sensitive company information should implement a system that narrows their off-site access to information that is germane to their job function, as well as bars them from transferring that information to third parties. To the extent it is feasible, experts said employers also should consider restricting employees' ability to retain information locally once their work is done for the day.

“That can include not allowing them to store, print or otherwise reproduce information from their computer locally if it doesn't absolutely need to be,” Mr. Rocco said. “A lot of that can be achieved through secure portal systems where employees go in and access the information that they need, but the data can't be removed or copied from that portal in any appreciable way.”