Protecting Personal Information on Mobile Devices

Some of the most common privacy breaches experienced by organizations of all sizes occur when personal information is lost or stolen. Mobile devices – such as laptops, smartphones and tablets – are of special concern, as they can be easily lost and are attractive to thieves. Flash drives and external hard drives are also affected when connected to a device or stored in a laptop bag or backpack. Even desktop computers can be targeted for theft. 

Mobile devices often store files containing the personal information of others. Whether relating to a student, fellow employee or research participant, personal information must be protected from unauthorized access. Not only is this important to comply with applicable legislation, UWinnipeg policy and research agreements, privacy breaches can also have serious monetary and reputational consequences. 

To help lessen the risk of privacy breaches involving mobile devices and drives, follow these guidelines: 

  • Never leave your device unattended and lock office doors, desks and cabinets
  • Protect your device with a strong, unique password
  • Avoid storing personal information in the first place by using network drives instead – even with desktop computers
  • Encryption of files and devices is the best way to lessen the impact caused by device loss or theft and should be used whenever possible
  • Delete files containing personal information when no longer needed
  • Anti-theft apps such as Find My Device (Android) and Find My iPhone (iOS) can wipe smartphones remotely
  • Commercial software (including freeware) exists to securely erase laptops
  • Set automatic screen locks to avoid unauthorized viewing of personal information