Configurator Was Designed To Keep IT Managers From Spying On Employees

Configurator Was Designed To Keep IT Managers From Spying On Employees

Apple wants to be sure employees know when their iOS devices are managed at work

One short sentence in the help documents for the new Apple Configurator tool shows that the company is aware that many workers are bringing their personal devices into the office. More noteworthy is the fact that it shows that Apple is thinking about some of the potential privacy issues that can arise in situations like BYOD programs where a personal iPhone or iPad is managed by a company’s IT department.

The sentence in question is in the section on supervised or managed devices. It reads as follows:

Important: When a device is initially supervised during the Prepare process, it’s wiped of all content and settings. This prevents a person’s personal device from being supervised without their knowledge.

This is the only time in Configurator’s help documents where there’s a reference to a user’s personal device.

Given Configurator’s requirement that iOS devices be physically connected to the Mac it’s running on by USB, I think it would be unlikely that a user would be unaware that their device had become managed by an IT staffer – they’d have to hand it over to someone for the device to be enrolled. I also don’t feel that Configurator is a good tool for a BYOD model because it seems to be oriented around managing a pool of iOS devices that are business-owned and shared.

That said, I do like the fact that Apple recognized that user privacy on personally-owned hardware should be protected. Privacy is a big issue that IT departments and users should be aware of when moving to BYOD models and Apple clearly agrees with that. Considering how much personal data we store on our iOS devices, having a line between personal and work use is important (and it’s the basis of products like Good and Bitzer, which focus on carving out a secure business niche on personal iOS devices rather than on whole-device restrictions).

Of course, Apple’s solution of wiping the device as part of the initial Configurator setup process seems like it might overkill in addressing the privacy point, but at least Apple is thinking about real-world needs in the ways that its customers are using its products.

  • Nancy Drew

    IT departments will have to deal with personal devices.  Most people will have their own and will not, repeat, will not carry two such devices for no good reason.

  • Amit Bajaj

    Along with Good and Bitzer, you should mention DME by Excitor A/S – it offers the same type of sandbox like approach but offers more functionality and security.. just a passing thought! Other than that, great article and the Configurator works well.. but keeping in mind, you’d need to enroll with iDEP (iDevice Developers Enterprise Program) to make this more automated than having to plug each device into the Mac..

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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