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    Obama Administration Faces Tech and Privacy Questions

    The Washington Post reports on technology, security and privacy problems that the new Obama White House has faced.

    [The Obama team] has been overwhelmed by challenges that staffers did not foresee and technological problems they have yet to solve.

    Obama, for example, would like to send out mass e-mail updates on presidential initiatives, but the White House does not have the technology in place to do so. The same goes for text messaging, another campaign staple.

    Beyond the technological upgrades needed to enable text broadcasts, there are security and privacy rules to sort out involving the collection of cellphone numbers, according to Obama aides, who acknowledge being caught off guard by the strictures of government bureaucracy.

    The New York Times delves into one of the recent privacy problems faced by the Obama White House technology team: criticism over WhiteHouse.gov’s use of YouTube to host video of President Obama’s public speeches. YouTube (and many other content-hosting sites) uses a “persistent” or “tracking” cookie, which tracks visitors and their browsing habits.

    The blogosphere was abuzz on Monday over reports that the White House’s official Web site had stopped putting YouTube videos on its pages after privacy advocates raised concerns about the practice.

    Now the White House is denying that it has changed its policy on videos from YouTube, which is owned by Google, or other third parties. While it chose to host President Barack Obama’s weekly radio and video address on WhiteHouse.gov, rather than embed a video from YouTube on its site, the change was simply an experiment, said Nick Shapiro, a White House spokesman. […]

    YouTube and the White House have been discussing ways to address privacy and other concerns. As a result of those discussions, the White House first switched from a YouTube video player that installs a cookie on a user’s computer whenever it is loaded, to a player that installs a cookie only when a user clicks to watch a video. YouTube also developed a version of that player that does not have the YouTube logo. And it began embedding its own privacy policy on videos that are streamed from government sites to alert users that YouTube was collecting information about them.

    “The embed player we’ve developed is available to all federal agencies, and currently the White House has embedded several YouTube videos on WhiteHouse.gov,” said Scott Rubin, a YouTube spokesman.

    But YouTube had no input into the White House’s decision to use its own player for this week’s presidential address, Mr. Rubin said.

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