One of Trump’s trademarks has been his Twitter feed. As the source of power struggles, celebrity news, and memes, Trump is relentlessly on Twitter. But there’s a very hard wall between Trump the private citizen and President Trump, and his Twitter feed might slam into it.
“I don’t think it’d be possible to do that on a secured phone, at least with the security policy that they had for Obama’s phone,” says Martin Alderson, co-founder of mobile security company Codified Security. “I think that the Twitter app would be too hard to lock down.” That’s especially true, he said, with Android phones, where gaps in mobile app security take longer to patch than on Apple devices.
True, Trump could demand revisions to the security policy, but that would take time, and he wouldn’t be allowed on Twitter in the meantime. One way around it would be that Trump could dictate tweets to a staffer who uses a secure laptop or desktop to tweet, but that would more or less filter what he has to say and prevent him from immediately reacting to events. One doubts the White House Tweet Supervisor would agree to be on 24-hour call and near a secured terminal at all times.
Trump could also just tweet from another smartphone; the President is also still a private citizen, of course. It’s worth noting, however, that doing this is a dicey proposition for those in office, even if they aren’t elected. Hillary’s Blackberry use when she was Secretary of State helped touch off the ongoing coverage of emails that dogged her campaign. Trump’s personal smartphone would be seen as a security risk; the author of NPR’s piece notes that even just accidentally leaving geolocation on would be a massive security problem. This is especially true as Twitter’s app has had a litany of security issues in the past. The President walking around with a personal smartphone would just be too juicy a target, and don’t forget, the FBI can easily activate a smartphone’s microphone covertly, so other countries likely have that capability and would love to listen in on the President’s private conversations.
Then, of course, there’s the larger security risk. The one-two punch of a phone call to Taiwan and some tweets led to China making a show of military force. Politicians on both sides of the aisle tend to be very careful in their tweets for exactly this reason; they don’t want to be misinterpreted. Trump, as a private citizen at the moment, has no such concerns just yet. Come January 20th, however, he may be tweeting, or not tweeting, a very different tune.