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'Security reasons' keep Obama from having iPhone

updated 12:07 pm EST, Thu December 5, 2013

Obama sticks with BlackBerry due to security risks

President Barack Obama's administration is likely the most tech savvy the United States has seen, but the Commander in Chief can't rely on the best selling smartphone in the world for personal use. In a summit at the White House today, Obama revealed that he cannot use an iPhone for official business due to "security reasons." The President still uses a BlackBerry in the course of his daily duties, but even that device is quite limited in what it can be used for.

Obama's revelation came in the course of defending the ailing-but-improving healthcare.gov portal for the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges. Obama referenced the iPhone in order to point out the typical monthly cost of such a device in comparison to the monthly cost of a health insurance plan through one of the exchanges.

"Now, for security reasons, I am not allowed to have an iPhone," Obama said to chuckles from the audience. "I don't know what your bills are. I have noticed that [Obama's daughters] Sasha and Malia seem to spend a lot of time on it. My suspicion is that for a lot of you, between your cable bill, your phone bill, you're spending more than a hundred bucks a month. The idea that you wouldn't want to make sure that you've got the health security and financial security that comes with health insurance for less than that price, uh, you guys are smarter than that."

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Instead, of an iPhone, Obama relies on a BlackBerry, and the President has had such a device since before he was inaugurated in 2009. Before and after his inauguration, Obama wrestled with the Secret Service over the handheld, with the protection agency holding that the BlackBerry constituted a security risk. It could, perhaps, be used to give away his location if it were hacked. Also, there was the concern that anything the President wrote on the device could be used against the administration in a congressional investigation.

Obama, though, resisted the call to give up his handheld. He eventually won out over the Secret Service, and the President can often be seen pecking away at the device in public and while in transit. The President is able to contact very few people through the device, and only a small list of senior officials and personal friends have access to his personal email address. The White House, according to AFP, says that there are additional encryption devices covering Obama's communications, though they declined to elaborate.

Despite Obama's revelation, Apple's iPhone has gone on to see greater adoption in governmental communications. Earlier this year, the Department of Defense began testing mobile devices, including the iPhone, for use on its secure servers. [Lead image via Getty Images]



By Electronista Staff
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  1. slapppy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-23-08

    No wonder the ACA web failure happened. Seems like the Administration is stuck with old legacy thinking.

  1. Inkling

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Quote: "President Barack Obama's administration is likely the most tech savvy the United States has seen."

    You're joking right? It's not just that this administration couldn't create a website for Obamacare. It's that they didn't even know that they'd disastrously failed to do so. You don't have to be 'tech savy' to tell the difference between working and not working. One by one, the illusions of 2008 are fading away.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by slapppyView Post

    No wonder the ACA web failure happened. Seems like the Administration is stuck with old legacy thinking.



    What does the iPhone's lack of security have to do with "legacy thinking", let alone the ACA website?

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    Quote: "President Barack Obama's administration is likely the most tech savvy the United States has seen."

    Well that's a low bar. My kids are more tech savy than O. Calvin Coolidge was the most tech savvy president in his day too.

  1. SergioRS

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-16-04

    Are we holding every previous administration to the same high standards of subcontractor accountability, or is this a special privilege we've reserved for the black guy? Because if we are, I've got a bone to pick with Bush2, Clinton, Bush1, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc etc etc.

  1. Flying Meat

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Totally agree, JackWebb. It is a low bar.

    Inkling. The ACA web thing wasn't so much about tech savviness, but more about project management. They fell into some common pitfalls regarding the process, not the technology. Glad the ACA web team got this turned around though. Please don't forget that the private sector fails miserably at launch too.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Inkling: as a writer, you more than most should understand the definition of words. Of course this administration is the most tech-savvy so far ... as will the next one be. By definition, each new administration is more tech-savvy than the last one.

    The Bush Jr. administration was more tech-savvy than the Clinton administration as well. This is just the inevitable result of moving forward in time, as you should know. One (now-fixed) website fubar does not in any way obscure the *incredible* re-organization and updating of the US government's overall web approach, which has actually been one of the most complete re-orgs of publicly-available gov't information in the entire history of the country, bringing a new level of accessibility and transparency to a wealth of information that was previously very difficult or costly to obtain. And of course, Obama's team also leveraged emerging social and internet technologies to help him win office and be re-elected. So quite CLEARLY the description "most tech-savvy" absolutely fits the current administration.

    Unless, of course, you already have an agenda against the President and won't give him and his administration credit for anything ...

  1. Mr. Strat

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-23-02

    Tech savvy...pffffft!

    This clown is a failure from the word GO. He's in way over his head.

  1. dwlayman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-06-10

    Why would a president need a smart phone? Keep a calendar? check on emails? Remind him when to go to the next meeting? Give him a map to get to that meeting? Find out how the traffic is on the way? Get a piece of information off the web?

    Why do we spend (I presume) millions of dollars on a white house staff if the president has his own phone? That's what the staff is there for: direct his life, feed him information, provide counsel and direction.

    I guarantee you if I had half the hangers-on the president does, my phone would go deep in some drawer somewhere.

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    When the private sector fails miserably it either adjusts or goes out of business to be replaced by a better business, unless it's a government protected monopoly.

  1. mytdave

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-16-00

    I had some experience with the industry that supports devices for people like the Pres. The issue is that it's a lethargic, slow moving group that takes forever to adapt to anything. (Kind of like govt.!)

    There aren't any security issues, they just haven't learned to support anything new, nor do they have the desire to. Hell, the desktop computers in this environment are still running Windows XP.

    The newest love affair among the propeller heads in this environment is now Android, and that does have problems with being secured.

  1. Flying Meat

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-25-07

    JackWebb. I'm not so sure about the "to be replaced by a better business" assertion, but yeah. Largely a mostly accurate generalization, sort of.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by mytdaveView Post

    There aren't any security issues, they just haven't learned to support anything new, nor do they have the desire to. Hell, the desktop computers in this environment are still running Windows XP.

    The newest love affair among the propeller heads in this environment is now Android, and that does have problems with being secured.




    What is your basis for these claims?

  1. BLAZE_MkIV

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-23-00

    "Yes! We hacked the presidents cell phone."

    "Perfect. Where is he now?"

    "In the White House."

    "We have him now!"

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    I bet he uses a fancy bidet. Paid for with our tax dollars, of course.

  1. BLAZE_MkIV

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-23-00

    The issue isn't really iPhone vs blackberry. It's that he's carrying a radio trasmitter that's constantly transmitting and it's broadcasting its serial number. You could literally make a missile seeker that would home in on it. It's a fundamental thing with how cell phones work. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't actually have a dozen or more phones he randomly switches between.

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