NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Do you use your personal phone for work? More and more people are under a workplace program commonly referred to as “BYOD” — or Bring Your Own Device.

To put it simply, BYOD means you supply the phone or tablet and your employer provides the service.

Sounds like a decent deal, right?

Well, some workers are seeing a downside, including Michael Irvin, a health care consultant.

“I saw just a blank screen, just like I got it originally,” said Irvin, recalling what happened to his personal phone soon after he quit a company where he’d been in the BYOD program.

What happened to his phone? The device had been wiped clean of its memory and contents -– pictures, personal contacts… everything.

“There were photos of my mother with my kids, a lot of new phone numbers, contact information that I had gathered,” Irvin told CBS 11 News.

It turns out Irvin’s not alone.

The National Workrights Institute, a workplace watchdog group, explained that cell phone “wiping” is the number one complaint they receive, and that the practice may become an even bigger problem within a couple of years.

By 2016, an estimated 38-percent of companies will require employees to participate in the BYOD program, according to the NWI.

The group’s president, Lewis Maltby, said he understands why companies would want to wipe devices clean after an employee leaves. But, “unfortunately, what happens is that the whole cell phone gets wiped, and now you lose everything.”

Mark Terman, a labor and employment rights lawyer in Los Angeles, suggests that before anyone agrees to use their personal device for their job, the individual and their employer should reach an agreement.

“This is a situation where both the company and the employees need to know the ground rules,” said Terman. He suggested companies provide a disclosure of their policy and get written consent from each employee before a BYOD agreement is reached.

One possible solution is a process called “sandboxing,” where companies selectively delete files from a device, once a worker leaves.

“Systems that operate in one sandbox on a device could be accessed and wiped out, while not disturbing the sandbox where the personal information of the individual is on,” Terman said.

Experts warn that if you temporarily lose a phone or other type of personal device used for work, your company may want to immediately “wipe it” to prevent potential leaks or theft of sensitive data. To avoid that from becoming a problem, workers should back up their phone frequently.

If you’re getting ready to leave a company, experts say you should make sure to download anything you want to keep.

As beneficial as the suggestions might be for many workers, it is advice that comes too late for Irvin, who will never recover what was lost on his cell phone.

“I had no idea that they could do it,” said Irvin, still sore about what happened. “It was just a complete shock to me.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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