The White House is considering a ban on personal mobile phone usage, a move that will prevent staffers from using their own handsets during work. The ban, should it happen, would be a cybersecurity move, according to officials, who claim it doesn’t have anything to do with leaks to media organizations. The idea is that a staff member’s own smartphone probably isn’t as secure as one issued by the government.
The information comes from Bloomberg, which reports that it got word from seven officials about the matter. The White House is reportedly concerned about the number of personal devices that are connected to the location’s WiFi network, potentially leaving it vulnerable to hackers.
The ban hasn’t been finalized yet, according to the sources, though it isn’t the first time such a proposal has been made. Thus far the White House has used various rules regarding personal cell phones to maintain cybersecurity, including banning their presence in places where classified data is accessible in one way or another (meetings discussing it, for example).
The plan is reportedly controversial within the White House for multiple reasons. Staff, for example, are said to worry about their inability to contact family during work hours if their access to personal phones is removed. A phone issued by the government won’t have the ability to send texts, as another example, a popular way to communicate without taking the time for an actual phone call.
Though private calls could be made with the gov-issued phone, records of those calls would be kept, raising privacy concerns. Critics of proposed personal phone bans worry about the cost of transitioning all staffers to government-issued phones, though others say the cost is small compared to the potential risk of a compromised handset. The White House is reportedly leaning toward the ban, but when a decision will be made isn’t clear.