Those Cute Little Emojis May Be Putting Your Data at Risk

by Courtney Nagi on August 4, 2016
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emoji putting business data at riskAs the world of technology grows increasingly mobile, emojis are appearing in the most unlikely of places, like business communications. Even though emojis may seem rather cute and innocent, their use by employees may cause more problems than they’re worth. :-O

For the uninitiated, emojis are those little graphics seen in lines of text. Emojis are commonly used in social media communications and are now being implemented in more and more mainstream apps in an effort by developers to appeal to the public's seemingly insatiable appetite for the fun little images. Domino's wants you to order pizza with an emoji, while some businesses even swear by the little icons for subject lines in their marketing email.

First off, it should be well understood by every emoji-loving professional that not every work colleague shares their enthusiasm for the ways of the emoji. In fact, there are still many in the business world who absolutely loathe emojis and find their use unprofessional and downright insulting. Whether or not their feelings are justified, this reality needs to be taken into consideration and emojis should be left out of business communications. After all, losing a sale because of an emoji is definitely not worth it.

Also, users of emoji need to tread carefully when selecting which emoji to use. An emoji carries the same weight as words; they contain meaning, emotion, and subtext. Although unlike words, which can be vetted by dictionaries and the precise meaning be easily determined, emojis can easily be misinterpreted, seeing as the image can carry two completely different meanings for two different people.

Take for example the case of a Pennsylvania man found guilty of threatening his ex-wife by using the :-P emoticon. Though utterly ridiculous, legal precedent doesn’t bode well for careless emoji users the world over. Therefore, use of emojis in the business environment should be put on hold until more clarity can be attached to their meaning, which may be a day that never truly comes.

To make matters worse, employees using emojis could open your network up to potential security risks. Consider this argument put forth by TechRepublic’s Jack Wallen: “Twitter, Facebook, and Google can use emoji to track your employees and target their devices with ads. No business wants their users to be transmitting any more data and information than necessary. And if your employees' usage of their Android and iOS devices are being tracked by Twitter, Facebook, and Google, those seemingly innocent emojis could cause problems. It's not too much of a stretch to see how this can evolve from advert targeting to device tracking, or it could even land your company in a court defending an employee's innocence.”

In other words, emojis give us a reason for online marketers to view potentially sensitive company files for the sake of pushing targeted ads across your company’s devices. This is a slippery slope in terms of network security that could lead to stolen information and ads containing links to malware.

Additionally, like the Pennsylvania man in hot water for using the wrong emoji, you don’t want to be liable if one of your employees made such a blunder from a company device or company account.

The surest way to alleviate the data risk associated with emojis is to disable them with your Mobile Device Management solution and content filtering solution. It may take some time to go through and extinguish the emoji feature across different apps, and it may even require blacklisting some apps entirely, but in the end, it will be worth it if it means protecting your data from the threat posed by those cute-looking-but-not-so-innocent characters. For help, call InfoTech Solutions at 0845 4666 500.