Smartphones in the Oval Office

The debate over security or productivity inspired by President Obama’s desire to  bring a BlackBerry into the Oval Office should make companies think hard about their own mobile devices, says former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin.
In the end, the argument for productivity (not to mention the desires of the newly-elected president) won out, but security hasn’t been completely left by the wayside.

In late January, the White House staff announced that the president will in fact get access to a smartphone, but with some limitations. First of all, it won’t be a BlackBerry–he’s trading up for a rugged device chosen by the National Security Agency. He’ll be limited in who he communicates with and what they discuss, and customized software will prevent the forwarding of presidential messages

The publicity around this presidential smart-phone balancing act may be a great thing for private-sector leaders who don’t even know there’s a balance that needs to be struck, says Hagin, who served the George W. Bush administration.

“I think that the focus on the president’s BlackBerry is doing a good service, because I think that the corporate world and the business world in general has kind of been asleep at the switch on these issues,” Hagin says. “It is extraordinarily important that private industry in the United States wake up to the vulnerability and the challenges of using these devices.

Perhaps better than anybody, Hagin understands the security challenges of placing smart phones in the hands of power players. In his role, Hagin essentially served as President Bush’s COO from 2001 to mid-2008 and was the senior staffer responsible for deciding on the first White House BlackBerry security debate.

Back when Bush took office in 2001 the White House had a policy banning the use of smart phones by any White House staffers, upon recommendation of senior intelligence and security staff. They stuck with the recommendation, even as they looked enviously at other workers on Capitol Hill aided by the technology

Then September 11th hit.

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