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White House Mapping Internet Users’ Data For Mass Archives

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Status update: Barack Obama is archiving your opinions and personal information

Steve Watson
Wednesday, Sept 16, 2009

If you’re a user of twitter, facebook, myspace, youtube or flickr, and you visit the White House page at any of the sites, you are at risk of having your personal data archived without your consent or knowledge.

The Obama White House has sought a private contractor to “crawl and archive” data such as comments, tag lines, e-mail, audio and video from any place where the White House “maintains a presence” – for a period of up to eight years.

Defenders of the White House actions said the 1978 Presidential Records Act requires that the administration gather the information and that it was justified in taking the additional step, The Washington Times reports.

However, this claim is being disputed by The National Legal and Policy Center, who first exposed the White House plan last month by drawing attention to a 51-page solicitation of bids (PDF).

The solicitation states:

“The contractor shall provide the necessary services to capture, store, extract to approved formats, and transfer content published by EOP (Executive Office of the President) on publicly-accessible web sites, along with information posted by non-EOP persons on publicly-accessible web sites where the EOP offices under PRA (Presidential Records Act) maintains a presence,”

Excerpt from the White House solicitation of bids

The solicitation also states that the White House is already collecting data from social networks via programs and daily screenshots.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The NLPC argues that Presidential Records Act does not apply because any comments are pasted onto a third-party Web page and do not constitute official correspondence with the president.

The watchdog group also points out that the program is suspicious because it is shrouded in secrecy and the public cost is being withheld.

“[V]irtually any communication mentioning the president or the administration could become subject to collection and archiving under the act. This is not out of an ‘abundance of caution,’ but out of an over-abundance of power. President Obama should make sure that this plan goes no further.” a statement on the NLPC website reads.

The move represents another broken promise of “change” on behalf of the president who consistently pledged to protect privacy on the Internet during his campaign.

It also comes on the back of recent news that the Obama administration is proposing to scale back a long-standing ban on tracking how people use government Internet sites with “cookies” and other technologies.

Recent disclosures under the Freedom Of Information Act also reveal that the federal government has several contracts with social media outlets such as Youtube (Google), Facebook, Myspace and Flickr (Yahoo) that waive rules on monitoring users and permit companies to track visitors to government web sites for advertising purposes.

With further news today that Obama is seeking to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping under the PATRIOT Act, and that the DHS plans to supply local “fusion centers” with military surveillance intelligence, it is clear that the privacy of American citizens continues to be systematically eroded under a regime that was voted in on a promise to scale back such activity.

This article was posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 9:58 am

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