Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Looking over your shoulder on Facebook: the Obama administration?

First it was the injunction to report your friends and neighbors for inaccurate comments about the health insurance debate.

Then, of course, there is the program being developed to allow the Federal government to shut down the internet.

Now, thanks to the National Legal and Policy Center, we learn that the White House New Media office is using an incredibly wide definition of the Presidential Records Act to harvest data on Facebook and other social networking sites about virtually any reference you make to President Barack Obama:

NLPC has uncovered a plan by the White House New Media operation to hire a technology vendor to conduct a massive, secret effort to harvest personal information on millions of Americans from social networking websites.

The information to be captured includes comments, tag lines, emails, audio, and video. The targeted sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others – any space where the White House “maintains a presence.”

In the course of investigating procurement by the White House New Media office, NLPC discovered a 51-page solicitation of bids that was filed on Friday, August 21, 2009. Filed as Solicitation # WHO-S-09-0003, it is posted at Click here to download a 51-page pdf of the solicitation.

While the solicitation specifies a 12-month contract, it allows for seven one-year extensions. It specifies no dollar cap. Other troubling issues include:

extremely broad secrecy terms preventing the vendor from disclosing to the public or the media what information is being captured and archived (page 7, “Restriction Against Disclosure”)

wholesale capturing of comments by non-White House staff on publicly accessible sites

capturing of content of any type (text, graphics, audio, or video)

capturing of comments by both Obama critics and supporters, with no restriction as to how the White House would use the information.

This is, again, a potential misuse of State power that should disturb not just civil libertarians but any American citizen.

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