Yesterday, The National Legal and Policy Center discovered an extremely troubling solicitation from the White House.
As if the administration's media specialists aren't in enough trouble -- collecting "fishy" email information on citizens, for instance -- a recent RFQ raises new and troubling questions.
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 targeted sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others – any space where the White House “maintains a presence.”
Note that this is the third troubling development related to White House new media operations. The first controversy erupted after the administration began collecting information on critics of the Obama health care transformation program. The second related to spam emails sent by David Axelrod, an Obama senior adviser.
Now the White House intends to harvest vast amounts of data on American citizens who use social networking sites. The scope of the program as described in the RFQ is astounding:
• Capture of comments by detractors and supporters of Obama: the RFQ specifies that the White House will capture "comments by both Obama critics and supporters, with no restriction as to how the White House would use the information."
• Transparency: there is none. The RFQ includes "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”)";
• Collection of data on citizens: the RFQ prescribes a massive data collection effort including capturing of comments on any website or social networking service;
• Collection of any and all types of content: text, markup, graphics, video, audio, etc.
Think the NLPC is overstating things? Read the salient details in the request for quote (RFQ) and judge for yourself:
The contractor shall provide the necessary services to capture, store, extract to approved formats, and transfer content published by EOP on publicly-accessible web sites, along with information posted by non-EOP persons on publicly-accessible web sites where the EOP offices under PRA maintains a presence, throughout the term of the contract.... The contractor shall include in the information posted by non-EOP persons on publicly-accessible web sites where the EOP maintains a presence both comments posted on pages created by EOP and messages sent to EOP accounts on those web sites. Publicly-accessible sites may include, but are not limited to social networking sites. The contractor shall provide a user-friendly way of organizing and searching captured information...
...Capture of comments and publicly-visible tags posted by users on publicly-accessible websites on which an EOP component subject to the PRA maintains a presence. Vendor must be able to either:
(i) Capture all comments posted to a list of websites provided to vendor; or
(ii) Capture a sample of comments posted to a list of websites provided to vendor, according to a sampling methodology that will be provided to vendor and approved by EOP.
This RFQ is an outrage.
And this administration appears to be completely out of control.
Obama makes Nixon look like a rank amateur.
Update: "Back in the USSA" and "If the Bush White House had let a contract like this one."
Update II: AlinskyRules describes why this is such a big deal. Specifically, the White House is legally prohibited from collecting this information. Period.
...specifically, the The Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits any Federal Agency from maintaining records on individuals exercising their right to free speech.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) have filed suit in the District of Columbia Federal Court against the White House over firstname.lastname@example.org and its successor, the linked "reality check" internet reporting Form...
...[It] was passed after the Nixon administration used federal agencies to illegally investigate individuals for political purposes. Enacted after Richard Nixon's resignation in the Watergate scandal, the statute prohibits any federal agency from maintaining records on individuals exercising their right to free speech.
Hat tip: Mitchell Blatt. Linked by: Memeorandum, Double-plus Undead, Fausta, Nice Deb and MediaSplatters. Thanks!