EXCLUSIVE: W.H. collects Web users’ data without notice

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Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, called for congressional oversight of the practice of collecting data.

“Given the administration’s disappointing secrecy in other contexts, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee encourages Congress to conduct oversight to ensure compliance with the law, maximize transparency and protect individual privacy,” Mr. Buttar said.

According to the law, the term “presidential records” means documentary materials “created or received by the president, his immediate staff or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the president, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.”

“It includes any documentary materials relating to the political activities of the president or members of his staff, but only if such activities relate to or have a direct effect upon the carrying out of constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President,” the law says.

David Almacy, who served as President George W. Bush’s Internet director, said the Bush administration did not use the then-fledgling social-networking sites in the same manner as the Obama White House, except to upload presidential speeches onto iTunes. The White House, however, did archive comments posted to its official Web site.

The proposal issued Aug. 21 calls for a contractor to “crawl and archive” social-networking Web sites where the White House maintains an official presence on seven networks: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and Slideshare.

The collection will include the comments, tags, graphics, audio and video posted by users who don’t work for the White House.

The White House has more than 333,000 fans on Facebook, and posts updates several times a day that draw hundreds of thousands of comments, both positive and negative. The White House has more than 1 million followers on Twitter and more than 87,000 subscribers on YouTube, where more than 400 videos of the president and White House briefings are posted.

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