According to the CTIA–The Wireless Association, by December 2009 Americans sent 1.5 trillion texts on annualized rate.[i] According to the industry, as more smartphones become prevalent in business applications the use of text messages in commerce will only increase. In addition, more companies are utilizing text messages as a way to keep in touch with their clients. This increase has not only been in the financial services industry where the speed of information delivery can affect the profitability of a transactions but text messaging has found its way in to other industries such as pharmaceuticals. In September 2010, Rite Aid decided to allow customers to subscribe to mobile alerts with regard to prescriptions. More companies will follow this trend; failure to do so might result in a loss of competitive advantage. As a result, CIO’s must ensure that their companies are compliant with the applicable rules and regulations. If executives fail to take the risk seriously they may find themselves in the middle of a lawsuit.
The use of text messages has become so prevalent in today’s society that it has started to displace normal forms of communication, i.e. phone calls and physical interaction. The human resource departments must be aware of this shift and address this in context with their sexual harassment policies. “Sexting,” an individual could be construed as sexual harassment. In Calmut County, Wisconsin the District Attorney has resigned over a “sexting” sexual harassment claim. In 2009, the DA sent sexually explicit to a domestic violence victim in which he was prosecuting the boyfriend, which further victimized the woman.[ii] This type of sexual harassment case will only increase in volume as more people begin to use texting.
So what is a CIO or senior executive to do with regard to corporate policies and procedures? The first thing all senior executives must do is evaluate their procedures with regard to the use of electronic communication devices. The next would be to determine what type of electronic infrastructure they currently have and where the potential exposure is. There are two different routes executives can take: write a set of procedures that forbid the use of such technology in the workplace, which is not practical; or obtain an electronic communications software application and that filters these phones or an application that completely censors this type of text. One of the leading manufacturers of smartphones, Apple, Inc., has had a patent recently approved which will allow all “sexting” messages to be blocked.[iii]
These filters are only as good as the person that designs them and fail to do the most important thing; they only filter and block, they are not proactive in identifying potential risks and they do not capture pertinent data. However, compliance solutions such as TextGuard’s SMS mobile compliance software allows for the collection and filtering of messages in a compliant manner. This enables senior executives to evaluate current trends and gives greater legal protection to the corporation since this type of compliance monitoring indicates that the company reviews such messages for inappropriate behavior, illegal behavior, and unethical behavior.
[i] CTIA–The Wireless Association® Announces Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey Results, March 2010, http://www.ctia.org/media/press/body.cfm/prid/1936
[ii] Gannett Wisconsin Media, Jim Collar, October 5, 2010
[iii] Tech Week, Critics Welcome Apple’s Anti-Sexting Technology