Give Up Your Web Anonymity. Can Obama Do That?

Obama was one of the first politicians to really leverage online social media to its full potential during his campaign for the presidential election, so you’ve got to admit that he knows a thing or two about maintaining an online reputation. And now that Obama is the president elect, he expects the rest of his administration to disclose some of their online information, according to an article in the New York Times.Â

In a 7-page questionnaire, prospective White House employees will need to list their aliases and handles used to communicate on the Internet, among other expected questions pertaining to government new hires. Now, communicate is a broad term, especially when it comes to the Internet. For the questionnaire’s purpose, it even includes names used for comments posted on blogs and websites. Not only is that a daunting task, depending on your level of online activity, but it also crosses a privacy line that has not yet been addressed on this political level.Â

I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised. I’ve had friends that are required to cease all social networking activity all together once they get a job with organizations such as the FBI. And given the need to avoid mistakes such as those seen by McCain’s or Clinton’s administration when it comes to certain members having rather embarrassing histories, an attempt for full disclosure in online activity can be viewed as a preventative measure.Â

But the real point of contention here is privacy. Is it ok for the White House to require you to give up all your aliases used on the Internet–yes, the whole Internet?Â

In setting a precedent for so many things related to the White House, Obama has no bigger shoes than his own to fill. And maintaining that sentiment across his entire administration is something that he’ll need to do throughout his entire presidency and beyond. This is more than just Obama covering his bases–it’s a measure taken to avoid having his administration look bad.Â

Nevertheless, it seems to be a rather extreme precedent to take. While there will always be an aspect of anonymity when it comes to communications on the web, the requirement for prospective White House employees seems to be a decided move against any and all potential anonymity. And perhaps the real issues will begin once we find out what the White House administration will be doing with this information once it knows its employees’ aliases used on the web.

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