Dating, Gaming, Bitcoin Mining Apps Now Banned from Marines’ Government Phones

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Marines Mobile cellphones
The United States Marine Corps has landed on mobile devices with its official application, Marines Mobile, which puts the story of the Corps in the hands of users. (Dylan Bowyer/U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines have been notified that their government-issued phones should not be used to find a date or beat the next level of "Candy Crush Saga."

Dating, gambling, cryptocurrency and any apps that attempt to bypass monitoring tools or download rules are forbidden on Marines' government phones, a recent service-wide message states. The message hit days before President Donald Trump vowed to ban the China-linked TikTok video-sharing app over security concerns.

The Marine Corps can already control which applications can be installed on official mobile devices through a "strong, technical management process," said Maj. Greg Carroll, a spokesman for the deputy commandant for information.

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"Mobile devices are a central component in both home and professional lives of Marines; therefore, it has become a potential target for compromising personal information or providing a platform for other criminal behavior," he added.

For that reason, the service-wide message on apps advises Marines to apply the same rules the Corps sets for their government-issued devices on their own cell phones. Users should not only delete any apps the U.S. government has deemed a risk -- such as TikTok, which the Pentagon already banned -- but also get rid of anything that accesses their photos and videos, contacts, microphone, location or calendar.

"Mobile applications have the potential to be poorly designed or created with malicious intent, which can result in compromising a user's mobile device," Carroll said.

Last year, a lance corporal learned a tough lesson in the California desert when he took a selfie that gave up his location during a training exercise. It resulted in the Marine's entire artillery unit being taken out by a mock enemy force.

"They were like, 'OK, you guys are dead,'" Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds, the Marine Corps' deputy commandant of information, told reporters earlier this year. "... I'm sure that lance corporal was not happy. But it's OK to learn those things at Twentynine Palms -- we don't want to learn those elsewhere."

The Marine Corps didn't offer up data on the number of Marines who've tried to put Tinder, games or cryptocurrency apps on their government phones. The forbidden apps will be blocked from Google Play and the Apple Store, the administrative message states.

"Only applications the Marine Corps has identified as necessary to conducting authorized activities are installed on government-furnished equipment," Carroll said.

Leaders aren't just worried about the digital dangers that accompany some of these apps. A command chief master sergeant in Japan just blasted his troops for using dating apps for hookups while under quarantine during the global pandemic.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: A Lance Corporal's Phone Selfie Got His Marine Unit 'Killed' at 29 Palms

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