Smartphones have become almost a necessity for most Americans. Whether is it your child’s school, a family member, or even your spouse, for the most part, everyone around you assumes you are reachable via that smartphone at any time. For staffers and visitors at the White House, this may no longer be the norm.
After countless issues with leaks coming from the West Wing, President Trump is increasing security at the White House. He has instructed a broad set of changes to be made at the White House, and this includes a new policy about the use of cell phones on campus. Today Chief of Staff John Kelly layed down the new law.
Currently, many staffers and visitors carry personal devices. For the most part, the average staff member also carries a phone that was provided to them for work. The phones that the government gives to the workers for official business are secure and highly monitored. Their private devices are not as safe and also not controlled, simply ask Hillary Clinton.
The fact that a personal cell phone is not secure is a huge issue. A private phone may be easier to hack into and give outsiders access to essential networks within the White House. The problem with the fact that the personal phones of staffers are also not as easy to monitor opens the network to internal issues if someone chooses leak information. An unsecured telephone, for example, could be used to take photos of top secret documents and text results.
To curb both unwanted uses for the private phones and possible problems with hacking, White House chief of staff John Kelly issued a press release with a new policy. According to the press release:
“The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore starting next week the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing.
Staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people.”
The immediate reaction from some employees at the White House was confusion and frustration. Many staffers are concerned about being cut off from family throughout their workday, but the new policy does not ban phone use altogether. It was clear that employees will be allowed to carry work-issued phones on their persons. The new plan did stop short of saying that the employees would be allowed to use their work phones for personal calls.
One of the most significant issues with only using the government bought phones is that they often have limited functions. While someone may be able to call in the event of an emergency, most of the phones do not allow staffers to text. This is a far more common way for family members to make quick contact with loved ones.
This is also a way some information has been leaked out of the White House. It is also much harder to hack into a phone call or even intercept a call. The data sent via text is easy to hack even after the text was sent.
While it may not be convenient for staffers not to be able to text their family or even other workers, recent history has shown us that texting has gotten more than a few members of the staff in hot water. Whether we look at snapshots from smartphones that paint visitors in an unflattering light or even the accidental forwarded text, they are often far more impactful than anyone initially imagined. It might save future heartache keeping texting out of the West Wing.
Not allowing staff or visitors to use their cell phones in the West Wing may seem radical, but it is not. There are similar policies in place in other parts of Washington D.C. including at the Pentagon. One does not just use their smartphone freely in areas that harbor secrets tied to national security. For the most part, many offices ban the use of a phone that can take pictures or send texts. This protects both the employee and the materials that pass across their desks.
Because there have been so many issues with leaks coming out of the White House, the new security measures make sense. At this point, a missed text from a family member is well worth one less leak to the press.