White House mulling over ban on use of personal cellphones

WASHINGTON • The White House may ban its employees from using personal mobile phones while at work, raising concerns among some staff that they will be cut off from family and friends, according to seven administration officials.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about press leaks since taking office, but one official said the potential change is not connected to such unauthorised disclosures.

The proposed ban is instead driven by cyber security concerns, the officials said. One official said that there are too many devices connected to the campus wireless network and that personal phones are not as secure as those issued by the federal government.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly - whose personal phone was found to be compromised by hackers earlier this year - is leading the push for a ban, another official said. The officials requested anonymity to discuss the proposal because it is not final.

The White House already takes precautions with personal wireless devices, including requiring phones to be left outside meeting rooms where sensitive or classified information is discussed.

Top officials have not yet decided whether or when to impose the ban, and if it would apply to all staff in the executive office.

While some lower-level officials support a ban, others worry it could result in a series of disruptive unintended consequences.

Mobile devices issued by the White House are not able to send text messages, creating a hardship for staff who say texting is often the easiest way for their families to reach them in the middle of a busy day of meetings.

Last month, Politico reported that White House officials believed Mr Kelly's personal mobile phone had been compromised for months, raising the prospect that foreign adversaries may have gained access to data on the device.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'White House mulling over ban on use of personal cellphones'. Print Edition | Subscribe