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The dangers of BYOD practices in startups: what you need to be aware of legally

This post is also available in: Deutsch


In today’s fast-paced business world, flexibility is key. That’s why many startups, and perhaps your company, are turning to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) practices to give teams more freedom and flexibility. But this freedom does not come without risks. You may have read the article on my blog reporting on a recent ruling. This ruling prohibits the use of customer data on private communications devices by employees and shines a bright light on the legal risks that can be associated with BYOD practices. In this article, I would like to take a closer look at these risks and the challenges they pose. I will highlight the various facets of BYOD, ranging from data protection to liability issues. In addition, I will discuss the actions companies can take to minimize these risks. And finally, I would like to share some final thoughts and recommendations that can help you make informed decisions.

Legal risks


One of the biggest legal risks in implementing BYOD is data protection. The GDPR sets strict requirements for the handling of personal data. With BYOD practices, it is difficult to maintain control over this data because it may be stored on different devices. This can lead to a range of problems, from data leaks to serious breaches of data protection laws. In addition, it is difficult for companies to ensure that all employees comply with data protection regulations when they use their own devices. This can lead to inconsistencies in data management and increase the likelihood of breaches. Therefore, it is important to have clear policies and training for employees to ensure that they understand and comply with data protection regulations.


Another risk is the company’s liability for illegal actions performed by employees on their personal devices. This can range from copyright infringement to fraud. When employees use their personal devices for business purposes, it can be difficult to draw the line between personal and business use. This can lead to legal gray areas that can leave the company vulnerable to lawsuits. In addition, using personal devices for business purposes can increase the risk of insider threats. Employees may knowingly or unknowingly disclose sensitive information to third parties. Therefore, it is important to implement strict security protocols and monitoring mechanisms to minimize such risks.

Breaches of contract

Many companies have contracts with third parties that dictate certain security standards for handling data. Use of personal devices may result in contract violations if these standards are not met. This may not only result in financial penalties, but also damage the company’s reputation. In addition, breaches of contract can lead to litigation that consumes time and resources. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all employees using their own devices are aware of the company’s contractual obligations. This can be achieved through regular training and the implementation of monitoring mechanisms.

Information Security

Information security is another critical aspect to consider when implementing BYOD practices. Using personal devices for business purposes opens the door to various types of security threats, including malware, phishing attacks and data leaks. These threats can not only compromise the integrity of corporate data, but also cause significant financial and reputational damage. Therefore, it is essential to implement strict security protocols that govern access to corporate networks and data. This can be achieved through the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), two-factor authentication, and other security mechanisms. In addition, it is important to conduct regular security audits to identify and address potential vulnerabilities. Finally, companies should consider implementing specialized security software for mobile devices to provide an additional layer of protection. By combining these measures, organizations can minimize the security risks associated with using personal devices for business purposes.

Certifications and BYOD

Certifications such as TISAX (Trusted Information Security Assessment Exchange) are an important factor in many industries to ensure compliance with security standards. TISAX is an information security standard developed specifically for the automotive industry, but also used in other sectors. These certifications set strict requirements for information security and data protection. They usually involve detailed audits and reviews to ensure that a company has implemented the necessary security measures. The adoption of BYOD practices often conflicts with the requirements of these certifications. This is because the use of personal devices reduces the organization’s control over its data and networks, making it more difficult to comply with security standards. In addition, BYOD practices can increase the complexity of the IT infrastructure, making it more difficult to conduct security audits. Therefore, it is important for organizations seeking certification or already holding one to carefully consider the adoption of BYOD practices. In many cases, they will find that the risks and challenges associated with BYOD do not align with certification requirements.

Blockchain and BYOD

Blockchain technology has been gaining traction in recent years and is being used in a variety of applications and industries, from cryptocurrencies to supply chain management. While blockchain is valued for its security features and transparency, combining it with BYOD practices poses significant risks. Especially in scenarios where employees have access to blockchain applications through their personal devices, the risks can increase exponentially. A primary concern is the possibility that employees could be custodians of third-party assets or trigger irreversible transactions. Because blockchain transactions are typically irrevocable, mistakes or malicious acts could cause millions of dollars in damages for which the company could be held liable. In addition, personal devices used to access the blockchain could be more vulnerable to security breaches, increasing the risk of theft or fraud. Therefore, it is critical for organizations using or planning to adopt blockchain technology to assess the risks and challenges associated with using BYOD in this context.

Trade secrets and BYOD

Another critical issue to consider when implementing BYOD practices is the protection of trade secrets. When content such as presentations, strategy documents, or other sensitive information is stored or used on personal devices, control over these trade secrets becomes much more difficult. This is because personal devices are often less secure and not subject to the same security protocols as company-owned devices. In addition, unauthorized use of such information by employees, the departure of key personnel, or even corporate espionage becomes more difficult to control and track. This can not only lead to a loss of competitive advantage, but can also have legal consequences, especially when it comes to the definition and protection of trade secrets (e.g. in the “Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets”). It is therefore crucial for companies to implement clear policies and security measures that ensure the protection of trade secrets, even in the context of BYOD.

What you need to pay attention

Policies and agreements

It is essential to have clear BYOD policies and agreements that protect both the company’s and employees’ rights. These policies should include detailed information about what types of devices are allowed, what security measures must be taken, and how data management will be handled. In addition, they should include clear instructions in case a device is lost or stolen. Employees should also be informed about what types of data they can and cannot store on their personal devices. Finally, it is important to conduct regular reviews and audits to ensure that policies are being followed.

Technical security measures

Firewalls, encryption and regular security checks are just some of the technical measures that should be taken. It is also important to implement a mobile device management (MDM) system that allows the organization to remotely manage devices and lock or wipe them as needed. In addition, organizations should be able to monitor traffic on personal devices to quickly identify unusual activity. This can be achieved by implementing intrusion detection systems (IDS) and other monitoring tools. Another important point is the introduction of comprehensive Technical Organizational Measures (TOM) to ensure that data processing is in compliance with data protection regulations. TOM are a set of internal rules and procedures that ensure the security and protection of personal data. Finally, it is important to conduct regular security audits to identify and address potential vulnerabilities.

In addition to the technical aspects, the handling of BYOD must also be regulated in company agreements. These should include clear guidelines on the extent of private use of devices to ensure a clear separation between professional and private use. In addition, the agreement should clarify the company’s authority to remotely delete content on employee devices. This is especially important in order to be able to take quick action in case of loss or theft of the device without risking legal consequences.


Employees should receive regular training to educate them about the risks and responsibilities associated with BYOD. These trainings should include both theoretical and practical elements and be conducted by experts in the field. It is also advisable to include case studies and real-world examples in training materials to help employees better understand the potential risks and consequences. In addition, training should be interactive to actively engage participants and promote learning. It is also important to regularly update training to reflect new technologies, legislation and best practices. In addition, it is important to regularly inform employees about changes in BYOD policies or relevant laws. This can be achieved through regular updates, internal newsletters and training sessions. Another important aspect is checking the effectiveness of the training through feedback rounds and performance evaluations. Finally, it is important to foster an open dialogue with employees to discuss feedback on BYOD practices and possible improvements. This can be accomplished through regular meetings and anonymous surveys to gain a full understanding of employee concerns and suggestions.

Insurance, liability and risk analysis

Another important aspect to consider when implementing BYOD practices is insurance and liability. Organizations should conduct a comprehensive risk analysis to assess the potential threats and costs associated with BYOD. Based on this analysis, suitable insurance policies can be taken out to take effect in the event of a data loss or security breach. However, it is important to note that insurance often does not cover all types of risks and that liability may ultimately rest with the company and its executives. In extreme cases, the use of BYOD can even lead to director liability, especially if significant damage is caused by the loss of personal data or trade secrets. This can not only have legal consequences, but also shake the confidence of investors and stakeholders, which can have a long-term impact on the business.


BYOD offers many advantages, but also entails considerable legal risks. Companies looking to implement BYOD practices should therefore conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and take appropriate steps to protect themselves. This can be achieved by implementing clear policies, technical security measures and regular training. In addition, it is important to keep an eye on developments in case law and legislation to ensure that the company’s BYOD practices are always in line with current legislation. Finally, it is important to take a proactive approach and constantly look for ways to improve BYOD practices.


Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


03322 5078053


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