Protect your firm from mobile PDA use in vehicles
Implement security features available with your PDA’s to limit their use in vehicles.
On October 26, 2009 a ban on the use of hand operated cell phones and other distracting devices is to be implemented in Ontario. This falls in line with similar laws in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. In Ontario, the maximum fine is $500 per incident. But what constitutes and incident and what can you do?
The legislation applies specifically to hand-held “wireless communications and hand-held electronic entertainment devices” and to the driver of the vehicle only. It is ok to use:
- A PDA1 that allows automated dialing through a headset – wired or wireless.
- A PDA plugged in the vehicles sound system that can be operated without touching the phone.
- A built in GPS system or one affixed to the vehicle.
- A portable media player plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.
- Your PDA to dial 911 directly in an emergency.
1 PDA and Cell Phone are used interchangeably.
That’s it, there are no exceptions – unless you are in law enforcement or emergency services who are exempt. Things that you can’t do include:
- Use the PDA at a red light. You must pull off the road and be in a safe location before operating the PDA.
Interestingly, this new law is not even featured on a Ministry of Transportation web site. And, after searching, the material there is dated.
What happens if an employee, using a firm supplied BlackBerry, gets into an accident while sending an email during the operation of a vehicle? If the accident results in injury or death, the firm may be liable. To protect itself, the firm may wish to do one or more of the following:
- Implement a policy relating to the use of PDA devices and circulate it regularly to all firm members with such a device.
- Require that PDA devices used for firm business be managed by firm software (such as a BES server for BlackBerry’s).
- Set passwords on PDA’s that require two hands to enter or may be more difficult to enter.
- Monitor (log) PDA activity. Logs can be used to co-ordinate accident time with PDA use.
- Set the PDA device to lock after a short period of time, such as 10 minutes.
- Purchase Bluetooth headsets for its employees.
- Notify clients that messages will only be responded to when it is safe to do so.
BlackBerry IT Policies
The BlackBerry Enterprise or Professional server software allows full control over the entire fleet of BlackBerry’s through an IT Policy. One or more IT Policies can be created and assigned to specific users. While the IT Policy can cover a wide range of features, the ones germane to this issue include:
- Setting password complexity and length for the BlackBerry.
- Setting the time period in which the device will automatically lock.
- Control the operation of BlackBerry components such as the camera and specific application use.
- Monitor and track the time of text and SMS messages, including the content of the message.
The extent to which policies are used is really up to the firm and its stance on this law and the associated liability.
Other PDA devices such as pure cell phones, iPhones and Windows CE devices do not allow central management of their features. As such, the firm has no control over their use and cannot confirm or deny their use in the accident scenario.
Bluetooth is a wireless technology that uses a low frequency to allow two devices within about 10 feet of each other to communicate. Before a Bluetooth device can be used, it must be “paired” with the unit for which it will be used. The pairing ensures that the Bluetooth device connects only to one “receiver” when activated as opposed to all the other cell phones within the area.
When purchasing a Bluetooth device, make sure that it uses Bluetooth 2.0 or 2.1 as these devices have improved security and range over their Bluetooth 1.1 and 1.2 predecessors. The version of Bluetooth used is usually on the outside of the box accompanying the device. Bluetooth devices emit far less radiation than a cell phone. Thus, if you speak on the phone a lot, there may be some health benefits to using Bluetooth over just safety.
Bluetooth headsets are a very personal choice, not a one size fits all system. Thus, a firm may wish to allocate $100 per user for a Bluetooth headset and allow that user to choose their own. There are a variety of headsets available with varying levels of sound quality and capability. Most headsets operate by accepting and processing the audio from the user. The Jawbone brand of headsets operates on vibration and requires a snug fit between the user and the headset for proper operation.
Now comes the tough part – deciding on what policies are most appropriate for your firm! Good luck!