BYOD and the White House

Clearly there is a massive problem. Big enough, that you can no longer bring in your own phone (and other personal electronic devices) as an employee or visitor into the west wing, period.

Digest that for a moment — no employee or visitor is permitted to have a personal electronic device upon entrance to the west wing of the White House. While such protocols are common in military-grade facilities, this ban is the first to occur in the civilian government.

While this may improve security, there are some pretty serious consequences in enforcing this ban that White House officials may not have fully thought through. Or perhaps more likely, they have thought it through and simply do not care about the consequences because this decision is like putting a tourniquet on a severed limb and they are desperately trying to keep their patient alive. This radically draconian decision comes with no cogent explanation from the White House, so we are now forced to conclude that they are denying use of personal technology for fear of more leaks. In my opinion, this ban is making a bad situation worse by waving the flag at a problem that has yet to occur, rather than dealing with the real security risks facing the White House and government officials.

This ban is like accusing the citizen before they even walk through the door. How are people going to feel if they do not think they are trusted? How will they act or not act? What work will they be willing to stand behind vs hide behind? What will they say vs not say? What happens in an emergency for a family member working during those hours? Does this indicate to the staff (and of course the rest of the world) that communications from the White House, in general terms, is broken and the only solutions are ones akin to parental controls?

The west wing employees to date have been using free apps to communicate with impunity anyway. Now they will have to delay their work and potentially use paper/pen to complete what they have done before from the comfort of their couch. This feels similar to a time when people clocked in and out of an office environment but now remote work is already the norm. Or worse, they will try and “remember”, what they heard and then hit send.

All in all, it is a complicated problem to solve but it has been proven that redirecting water can be a lot easier than damning it up.