What does the nonprofit Obama-Biden Transition Project have in common with several taxpayer-funded government servers managed by the U.S. General Services Administration and the U.S. Congress?
Why is the Cluen Corporation, a privately-funded software firm, and the subject of a 48-hour-old blog post of mine, storing online personnel records of potential executive branch employees?
Aren’t you the slightest bit curious?
Barack Obama was elected to the United States Presidency in a landslide victory, helped by social media outposts on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and Twitter. His campaign included new media tenets of online branding, knowledge sharing, transparency, and authenticity.
Focusing on the internet battleground of Obama vs McCain over the past four months, I wrote numerous blog posts intertwining government and technology, including:
- You’re an Ambassador of Social Networking. You Just Don’t Know It.
- What is Congress Doing? Twitter!
- McCain Lacking in Telephone Dept.
- How Social Media Changed the U.S. Presidential Election
- Anything is Possible
I thought Obama ran an outstanding “Yes We Can” social media campaign, and I’m glad I voted him into office.
However, I’m concerned that the American people may not realize what Change is all about…
Change.gov: What is it, really?
From their About page:
This site is for the Office of the President-elect and Office of the Vice President-elect, as recognized by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended (3 USC 102 note). The Presidential Transition Act specifically authorizes the Administrator of GSA to provide services and support to the Office of the President-elect beginning the day after the election until 30 days after the inauguration to support the orderly transfer of executive power after a general election. This site provides information to the public in support of this important public purpose.
GSA is an acronym for the General Services Administration.
Launched on November 5, 2008 (the day after Election Day), the site is a work in progress. For instance, a text link on that About page to the “GSA Transition Directory” has no physical link; in other words, the link goes nowhere.
Apparently, that directory is the work of the GSA and the National Archives and Records Administration, via the Presidential Transition Act of 2000. You can visit it at directory.presidentialtransition.gov.
The General Accountability Office, an independent watchdog agency that works for Congress, has a similarly-veined site, also launched Nov. 5, at www.gao.gov/transition_2009.
The difference is the dot-gov page fails to mention Change.gov is the home of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that accepts non-lobbyist donations at a special page on obamabidentransitionproject.org.
In other words, a nonprofit organization is requesting donations on a dot-org website while everything else is housed on a taxpayer-funded dot-gov website.
What am I missing?
Cabinet applicants – beware of privacy and Facebook
I’m willing to bet that Obama’s Cabinet-to-be is not as social media-savvy as, say, me.
That is, I’d be very surprised if any incoming Cabinet Secretary or another presidential appointment, per a New York Times story about a mammoth job questionairre, is an (in)active Facebook user.
Obama, as a presidential candidate, used Facebook extensively; I blogged about it. I am sure that even if he never saw Facebook, his campaign team did.
I hope President Obama will continue to use the social network as a hook to increase civic engagement with the Millennial Generation and tech-savvy adults.
Which begs the question how many prospective senior-level White House and Cabinet employees have used Facebook and/or are familiar with its privacy regulations? How many executives are aware the Transition Project is requesting copies of Facebook profiles?
Why are Facebook third-party developers — folks who make the various widgets on nearly everyone’s page, from zombie biting applications to poker games to little green patches — not allowed to view a user’s name but the transition team can?
Or, will the Cabinet not be comprised of people who know what Facebook is?
Other applicants — beware of privacy and Cluen Corporation
Echoing a case study on privacy between Change.gov and Cluen I wrote 48 hours ago, I ask again why personnel records of prospective managers and staff throughout the executive branch are directed to an online job portal that is powered by a software solutions firm?
The questions of this online application (which I’ve since tinkered through) don’t ask about Facebook, unless one chooses to provide information. There are 12 sections comprising: contact information, employment experience, education, experience working with various economic sectors (management, private sector, government, nonprofits, and academia), desired position, references, citizenship, and optional data on one’s race, ethnicity, etc.
As I wrote the other day, why is this information being stored on Cluen’s servers? A recent question on LinkedIn asking about the comparison between online recruiting solutions by Cluen and Dillistone yields three responses in favor of Cluen and two against. Judge for yourself.
I called Cluen’s founder, Andrew Shapiro, this morning for a quote but it’s now 4:30 p.m. and I have not heard back.
Summarizing it up
Obama cares about transparency. After all, he was an original sponsor of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.
Can he or one of his staff help me answer some questions?
First, I ask the president-elect to provide fuller disclosure to the American people about the nonprofit status of the transition team and the government server on which it’s voice is hosted.
Second, I ask the president-elect to explain why social media isn’t embraced for the transparency it provides and not as a potential crutch to prevent a qualified individual from a presidential appointment.
Third, I ask the president-elect to illustrate the relationship between the taxpayer-funded Change.gov, the nonprofit-funded transition team, and Cluen Corporation; and why prospective White House personnel records (potentially retrievable under Freedom of Information Act requests) are stored with a third-party contractor.
I’m sure it’s all legit — so how about some answers?