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White House Updates Its Privacy Policy

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The White House website (whitehouse.gov) has a brand new privacy policy and the good news is that it a lot more easy to understand. Unlike the previous privacy policy which was full of legal and bureaucratic language, the new privacy policy manages to explain what kind of data is collected from the users and how it is being used. The updating of the privacy policy is seen as a step in the right direction since the Obama administration is facing severe criticism over the NSA’s spying programs. In this article, let us look at some of the most prominent disclosures of the updated privacy policy.

What Kind Of Data Is Collected By White House?

When you visit whitehouse.gov, several details such as your IP address; data, time and duration of your visit and the data transmitted by the website to your computer is automatically recorded. In addition, if you choose to receive an email from the website, details regarding whether the mail was opened, printed or forwarded are captured. Surprisingly, the policy is open about what kind of data is not being collected. As an example, if you visit the White House website with a mobile application, your GEO-IP location won’t be recorded. The policy explicitly states that data available in Open Domain would be automatically recorded. Online comments, whether positive or negative, are recorded since they are considered to be in Open Domain.

What About Social Media?

The Obama administration is well known for its digital and social media initiatives. If you choose to engage with the White House through Facebook, Google+, Twitter or other social media websites, your data would be governed by the social media provider’s privacy policy. Additionally, social media communications are recorded to comply with Presidential Records Act.

How Your Private Data Is Handled?

The White House privacy policy clearly states that the data collected by the website is not shared with third parties (including the NSA). And although the website says that the data would be retained until the end of the current administration, it is safe to assume that it would be passed on to the next administration as well.

Personally identifiable data collected from the users can be seen only by limited number of employees and vendors who need the information for performing their duties. For instance, queries related to security might be forwarded to the Homeland Security department; messages that appear threatening may be passed to the FBI and so on and so forth.

If you contact the White House through its social media pages, your data might be available to third parties and advertises since most social networks are known to share user data with their partners.

The Reactions

A lot of security experts have welcomed the decision of the White House to update its privacy policy in these turbulent times. They have praised the policy for its openness and easy to understand language. However, some security experts have derided the new privacy policy by saying that it has nothing new to offer. The critics argue that the policy doesn’t say what is actually does with the stored data and some of them have even voiced concerns that the whole exercise is another attempt by the Obama administration to collect even more personal data from the American citizens.

You can read the official White House Privacy Policy here: whitehouse.gov/privacy

April 24, 2014

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