There is so much confusion around what AirWatch is collecting and what kind of privacy you are losing by having a device enrolled in AirWatch.  First and foremost, if you are assigned a corporate device to use, expect it to be watched around the clock, your Internet history and messaging seen and logged.  If you are using a corporate device, don’t expect any anonymity or right to privacy… the company is giving you technology to be used explicitly for work unless otherwise noted.  In today’s day and age, we are seeing a higher adoption of BYOD or bring your own device programs within corporations and even some government entities.  This is where we see users start to panic.  BYOD is supposed to be the best of both worlds, but at times it can be an absolute disaster, that’s why we have AirWatch.  AirWatch wasn’t built to steal all of your personal information and allow your company to browse through it all like a page turner novel.  AirWatch is meant to allow your company/corporation/school/etc. feel comfortable about you carrying sometimes sensitive corporate information around with you in your pocket 24/7.  AirWatch is meant to both protect the corporate resources, such as e-mail and documentation while also allowing you, the end user, to access it wherever you are and whenever you want to.

That’s sounds great and all, and also very salesy… so let’s dive into what it is that AirWatch actually collects as well as how and why corporations want it to.

 

What AirWatch CAN’T Collect

Let’s just cut the fat and get to what you are all concerned about, GPS.  By default, AirWatch does not collect GPS information.  AirWatch is not tracking your every location and keeping a log of it to make sure you aren’t going anywhere you shouldn’t.  However, this is all with a caveat…. AirWatch does have the ability to track GPS information and some companies/corporations may require you to let them track your GPS 24/7/365.  While it’s not configured this way by default, it could be and you might have to agree to it if you want access to corporate email/data from your personal device.  Again, if it’s a corporate owned device, you either consent, or you get no device, and I believe that is fair.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to more things that AirWatch can’t collect.

AirWatch actually doesn’t have the capability to collect information from personal text messages, iMessage, etc.  That being said, if it did have the capability, I don’t foresee many companies/institutions that would want to log all of that data.  How many texts do you send daily?  Weekly?  Monthly?  Storage is expensive and I doubt many companies would spend a ton of money just to store your iMessages.  Moreover, AirWatch can’t collect or record FaceTime messages, SMS, MMS, voice messages or phone calls.  Taking it one step further, AirWatch can’t collect metadata on these messages also.

One of the biggest misconceptions that I want to clear up is that AirWatch does not have the ability to collect information from the personal messages users send or receive from their devices. This includes personal emails, SMS, MMS, phone calls, voice messages or FaceTime messages. AirWatch cannot collect metadata on these messages, either.  Everybody take a nice deep breath and a sigh of relief, altogether now, PHEW!

 

What AirWatch CAN Collect

Again, I will stress that if you are in a BYOD environment, the way that AirWatch functions will be much different than how it would function in a corporate owned device environment.  Just know that if you have a corporate owned device, you have no assurance of privacy related to anything you do on the device.  This is especially true with AirWatch as your MDM.  AirWatch can and will monitor your GPS location 24/7/365.  Why?  Well, this is especially good for employers who don’t want their corporate information accessed by an unauthorized individual.  When your phone is GPS tracked by AirWatch, a company administrator can remotely wipe your device in the event you lose your phone or it is stolen… this is a good thing.

Part of the AirWatch enrollment process is downloading and installing the AirWatch Agent which will give your IT department access to up-to-date information on the status of your device and to ensure you’re in compliance with the IT rules for devices.  Information like iOS version, and whether or not the device has been jailbroken. Another good thing that the agent allows for is push notifications to your device from the administrator console.  Notifications are good if the IT department needs to shut all devices down, or remove certain apps for maintenance, etc.  Another thing the AirWatch Agent will allow for is the collection and analysis of telecom data.  Telecom data such as data used, wifi statistics and more can be collected in order to avoid any overages (note: this is only in corporate owned device situations, not BYOD).

 

Everybody Calm Down

Hopefully this has given you a good idea of what AirWatch can and can’t collect from your device.  The important thing to remember is that the IT department makes the rules.  For the most part, the IT department can configure AirWatch to do what they want it to do and you either have to agree and accept the terms or you can’t have corporate owned data on your device.  In this daty and age I believe that is a fair request.  In a corporate owned device program, you either agree or you don’t get a device.  AirWatch isn’t out to capture your pictures, personal messages and Internet history to sell to the highest bidder.  AirWatch doesn’t care, and frankly, neither does your company.  AirWatch is all about securing corporate owned data that is allowed to be stored/used on your personal device.  Hope this helps, but for some conspiracy theorists, it was probably a waste of my time!

 

 

Greg W Stuart
Greg is the owner and editor of vDestination.com. He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

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