David Gewirtz | BIO
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing
President Roosevelt may have had to contend with Hitler and Stalin, not to mention an occasionally naked Churchill (look it up), but at least he didn't have to deal with the blogosphere.
President Obama has no such luck. He's the second President who not only has a fourth estate, but a completely unruly and often full-goose-bozo body of bloggers, just looking for any excuse to increase their "hits" and drive up the pennies they're given for their thoughts from Google's ad revenue service.
This time, trumpets the blogs, the White House has a "secret plan" to "harvest personal data from social networking sites."
First, it's not a plan, and, second, it's not exactly a secret.
It's a publicly available government procurement document, and just for you, I've read all 51 excruciatingly boring pages of the thing.
The White House isn't trying to get at your secrets. Instead, the White House is proactively attempting to comply with the Presidential Records Act (PRA) by interpreting postings to social networking sites - if posted by members of the Executive Office of the President - as possible Presidential records.
This is a good thing.
The document is asking vendors to propose how they'd record (for eventual delivery to the National Archives) all the postings the Executive Office of the President (EOP) makes (in the words of the RFP: "published by EOP") to to seven specifically named "whitehouse" accounts on seven social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, SlideShare, Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo.
So far, so good. The document then goes on to request that the vendor propose how to record all comments made and messages sent to those "whitehouse" accounts. This, honestly, is a little dicey. It is relatively clear to those of us who are students of the PRA that outside comments by you and me aren't Presidential records.
In the old days, though, if you'd sent a real, paper, snail mail letter to the White House, you could reasonably expect it'd be examined by security personnel, and possibly filed - because one of the things all governments have done well since the time of the Romans is file stuff.
Today, we're far less likely to write something with a pen and stick a stamp (remember those?) on it. Instead, we're much more likely to @whitehouse a Twitter posting. Although most of the @whitehouse replies and comments are likely to be more noise than signal, some of them might generate a reply from the EOP account holders - and that dialog could be considered a Presidential record.
Seriously, this isn't a secret plan where the government archives and catalogs everything you publicly post, ever, on your favorite social networking site.
It's not like the White House is trying to be Big Brother. After all, that's Google's job.
Follow David on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/DavidGewirtz.
Author's Note: Let's get archived together. Post a "tweet" with both @DavidGewirtz and @whitehouse in the message. This way, you and I and the White House will be linked together in the National Archives for ever and ever. Isn't that romantic?
Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Magazines, including OutlookPower Magazine. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.
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