Device Tracking

Enterprise Phone Tracking: How It Works and Why It Is Important

Learn why it may be beneficial to track your employees’ phones, what tools you should use, and how to keep it within the legal framework.

August 23, 2022

Just 5 full years ago, in 2016, there were less than 3.7 billion smartphone users. Now, that number has reached 6.6 billion in 2021. Nowadays we don’t just use our smartphones for pleasure anymore, now a lot of our work environment requires some form of communication via mobile devices too. In the eyes of petty thieves and corporate data hackers alike, phones hold valuable information and decent street value making cellphone theft very profitable.  

No matter whether you are a company of 10 or an organization of 10,000, your employees are most likely using their smartphones to communicate for work and access company information. The security of mobile devices, including laptops, tablets, and cell phones, that have access to sensitive data is a top priority. Phone location tracking can be even more vital if you provide a company-owned smartphone to your employees, which is why having a software package that allows you to do a lot from one place is effective and efficient when retrieving stolen or lost company property and information. Learn more about tracking employee phones, what type of location tracking programs work best, and how to do it all legally below.  

Why Is It Important To Track Employees' Cell Phones?

Employee turnover in the U.S. is on pace to hit 20% in 2022. High turnover rates at companies like Amazon, AFLAC, and Google might be good for the job market, but they can cause data security personnel nightmares as companies are continuously onboarding and training new end users while off-boarding old ones. 

Making sure you’ve safeguarded your data and collected all of your loaned company devices can be overwhelming during a lot of employee turnaround and change. That’s where a phone location tracking solution comes in. Some more important benefits of a comprehensive enterprise phone location program include:

Theft prevention

According to the FBI, 70 million cell phones are lost every year.  Additionally, 4.3% of corporate-issued cell phones are stolen each year, too. And 52% of devices are stolen from the workplace and another 24% from conferences.  

Software that provides multiple types of phone location tracking can allow IT and physical security personnel to know exactly where an employee’s cell phone is lcated, if it leaves a facility or specific area, and the ability to lock a device remotely if any suspicious activity is detected. This is more efficient than trying to track down a lost or stolen cell phone by other means.

We should also consider rogue employees that steal their company assets. It is absolutely, categorically essential for technical enterprises serving clients that handle sensitive corporate data or personal data that is protected by law to have procedures in place that protect against data leaks - even those brought on by the worst case situations.

Monitoring the location of staff

Although this may sound a bit like a big brother, an agile organization can benefit greatly from knowing where its employees are at during work hours. Much like GPS tracking for law enforcement vehicles and even carting services, location software can help with deployment management and reaction times to urgent issues in the field.  

Tracking an employee’s cell phone also allows you to find them during an emergency like a weather warning or other natural event.

Tracking employee productivity

If you have permission to track employee emails and communications, managers are then able to gain insight into how much their employees focus on work, especially during busy and pivotal times for your industry. 

Increasing data security

At least 80% of the value lost when a phone is stolen is in the data that is accessible via that device. Phone location tracking programs give companies the ability to delete saved passwords and prevent access to internet accounts or banking credentials. 

Guarding against insider threats

As any company in the retail sector can attest to loss prevention starts at home.  When an employee becomes disgruntled or uses information in ways that breach company policy, tracking software can alert personnel of unusual activity, like access to confidential or need-to-know files, even if it happens off-hours. 

Information loss prevention

Mobile device security can also incorporate corporate policy, too. For example, setting company-wide security policies on all devices like employing the lock screen feature and applications that require login credentials of 2FA every time they are accessed can help greatly with information loss prevention. 

Phone security software can also limit the installation of mobile apps onto a device by an end user, which can take away the possibility of any malicious activities or the use of applications that access other information on a cell phone or tablet. 

Is It Legal To Track Employee Phones?

It is legal to track an employee’s phone, especially if the phone is company-owned property. It’s much harder to track an employee’s personal device. If you do choose to monitor personal devices because they are used for work, a policy must be established that employees are aware of pertaining to monitoring and what is considered work product vs. personal business. 

When you give an employee a company phone, it’s important to alert them that it will come with location and other data tracking on board. This is legal under federal law and each state may have its own interpretation, too. 

Consider whether you want a record of conversations and phone calls, too. This is also legal under federal law, with some guidelines. Business data, including voice and text, on company devices, can be recorded, based on the business-related exception to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986

Types of Phone Location Tracking

When it comes to tracking employees’ cell phones, there are three distinct technologies to consider: GPS tracking, WiFi tracking technologies, and GeoIP tracking. Here’s a brief overview of how each works.

GPS Tracking 

According to GPS.gov, GPS satellites broadcast their signals in space with a certain accuracy. What you receive on your device depends on additional factors, including satellite geometry, signal blockage, atmospheric conditions, and receiver design features/quality. 

For example, GPS-enabled smartphones are typically accurate to within a 4.9m (16ft.) radius under the open sky. However, their accuracy worsens near buildings, bridges, and trees. 

GPS tracking is excellent for companies that have employees who are literally in the field. Insurance or disaster recovery personnel and their devices can be found with confidence as they work a scene out in the open.

WiFi Tracking 

A GPS device is constantly receiving information from satellites, as described above. A WiFi-enabled device, like your cell phone, tablet, or laptop, receives a signal from other WiFi devices.  These can be WiFi access points or routers, which is also where you get your WiFi signal from at work, at home, or in a public space. WiFi tracking uses the location of these access points and all other WiFi-enabled devices to establish a location.  

Even when a specific device is not connected to a WiFi network, if the WiFi setting is enabled, it still sends out requests to find nearby networks and access points. With this signal, WiFi location tracking, also referred to as the WiFi Positioning System (WPS), can pinpoint a device’s location when GPS cannot. 

GeoIP Tracking

GeoIP tracking uses a database of IP addresses to track the IP that the device is connected (or last connected) to, which can then be tracked in a phone location tracking software. The IP address location is fairly accurate and allows companies to track cell phones based on their last used location.

How To Use All Three Tracking Technologies Together

Using combined tracking methods and technologies will provide you with the most accurate and reliable results from GPS, WiFi triangulation, and GeoIP to accurately locate your employees’ phones. Without all three technologies, your tracking and location accuracy may be flawed.  

Neither GPS nor Wifi is available everywhere, which is why it’s good to have their support and check each other. GeoIP is a reliable backup since IP addresses aren’t always exact locations but general areas that may be off the grid to WiFI or GPS alone. Imagine a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles. It’s great to be in the middle where all three types of tracking technologies are available in one place. However, that will often not be the case, and having all three gives you extended coverage in remote physical environments. 

How To Choose The Best Phone Location Tracking Solution for Your Company

Choosing an enterprise phone location tracking solution can be an important step for any company. As we know, data security breaches can lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue in addition to the cost to close the leak. 

So, what should an organization look for in a phone location tracking software? Here are some important features to start:

  • Gathering of new locations and timed checks when device movement is detected
  • Admin ability to examine the location of each company device separately or access to a global view to monitor them all at once
  • Amount of phones able to be installed in one enterprise software 
  • Ability to set up geofencing zones and boundaries on a map to detect the movement of devices, as well as entrances and exits, and issue alerts accordingly
  • Real-time notifications of device movement set off by the established detection rules for designated delimited zones
  • A history of a device's previous movements to pinpoint potentially dangerous regions 
  • Licensing and cost: Can you transfer the app from one device to another due to damage, normal replacement, upgrades, etc., or is there a new licensing fee? 

Takeaways

A top-notch enterprise phone location tracking software will allow your company personnel to prevent device theft, actively and passively monitor the location of staff and their devices, increase data security, minimize information leaks, and guard against insider threats. The right software should include most (if not all) of the following features:

  • Access to three different location technologies (GPS, WiFI triangulation, and GeoIP) to quickly find phones in the field and at company locations
  • Customizable tracking that can be done actively or on demand
  • Timestamped reports on a cell phone’s present location
  • Ability to lock and prohibit access to a cell phone in case of suspicious movement or behavior
  • Remote ability to delete saved passwords, preventing access to internet accounts or banking credentials

Although there are several phone location programs available, most don’t have all of the necessary features and tracking technologies to save you time and protect your physical and digital properties. Prey Business Solution does include these features at one enterprise price. 

Not only can you track, monitor, and manage your company's laptops, tablets, and phones with a single platform that uses GPS, Wifi, and GeoIP, but corporations can also access management tools, like mass actions and the global map view, to control large fleets in bulk. It’s important to understand what software you’re installing on your company devices and how it will interact and track your employees. Prey’s upfront, reliable features can help protect company property while retaining employees via clear communication and reliable location tracking.

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