In 2010, the Visual Data Breach Risk Assessment Study revealed that two out of three working professionals are displaying sensitive information on their mobile devices, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and other non-regulated but sensitive company information, when outside the office. This points to the insight that in certain circumstances people value productivity over data protection when working. However, in circumstances when an individual values data protection, is the company potentially losing productivity due to visual privacy concerns?

The 2013 Visual Privacy Productivity Study, conducted by The Ponemon Institute, revealed that companies can lose more than data as remote working increases, with 50% of employees answering that they are less productive when their visual privacy is at risk in public places.

The Visual Privacy Productivity Study showed that employees are forced to either trade-off working and risking private data being overlooked by nosy neighbours, or stop working altogether. Based on these findings, lost productivity due to employee visual privacy concerns is potentially costing a US business organisation with more than 7,500 people over $1 million dollars per year.

While many companies realise that snooping and visual privacy presents a potential data security issue, there has been little research regarding how the lack of visual privacy impacts a business’ bottom line,” says Larry Ponemon, Chairman and Founder of The Ponemon Institute. “As workers become more mobile and continue to work in settings where there is the potential for visual privacy concerns, companies need to find solutions to address productivity as it relates to computer visual privacy in addition to dealing with the fundamental security issues of mobile devices

The study of 274 US individuals from 5 organisations in a variety of sectors. More than half stated that their visual privacy had been violated whilst travelling or in other public places such as cafes, airports and hotels, and two out of three admitted to exposing sensitive data on mobile devices whilst outside the workplace. When asked how their organisation handles the protection of sensitive information in a public location, 47% did not think any importance was put on this and that no adequate policies were in place.

Other interesting findings include:

  • Employees are 50% less productive when their visual privacy is at risk and lost productivity costs an organisation approximately £350 per employee per year
  • Visual privacy impacts on transparency as users that value privacy are less likely to enter information on an unprotected screen.
  • Women value privacy more (61%) than men (50%), and women’s productivity is more positively impacted than men’s when the screen is protected with a privacy filter.
  • Older employees value privacy more, with 61% of over 35s compared to 51% of under 35s placing importance on privacy.

Productivity loss is a major discovery in this survey and will hopefully encourage companies across all sectors to consider employee working practices and behaviours,” said Rob Green, Marketing Executive at 3M’s Speciality Display & Projection Division

According to the survey the devices used for work-related activities were:-

  • Smartphone 65%
  • Laptop computer 65%
  • Desktop computer 45%
  • Tablet computer 29%
  • Netbook computer 14%
  • Other 2%

The 2010 Visual Data Breach Risk Assessment survey revealed that visual privacy on computer screens was an under-addressed area in corporate policy. Seventy percent of working professionals said their organization had no explicit policy on working in public places and 79% said that their company had no policy on the use of computer privacy filters.

The 2012 Visual Privacy Productivity Study reinforced these findings with

  • 47% of those surveyed saying they were unsure or did not think their company placed an importance on protecting sensitive information displayed on a screen in public places
  • 58% were unsure or did not think other employees were careful about protecting sensitive information on computer or mobile device screens in public places. Corporate policy and education on that policy continues to be areas for improvement as it relates to visual privacy.

The full study is very informative about how the sponsor’s (3M) privacy filters can improve productivity and reduce risk and can be read here.

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