By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Obama job-seekers beware

Ari Herzog, who’d like to work for the Obama administration, is put off by the 63-question, privacy-invading survey that all applicants must fill out.

That, at least, you might have already heard about. But Herzog also discovers that the data you provide to Team Obama’s site is stored not on a government server, but with a private contractor, Cluen Corp.

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Here we go again

Next versus GateHouse redux


  1. Tony

    Change we can believe in!

  2. tvoh

    Meet the new boss, you finish it.

  3. Steve

    A couple of questions:- At present, Obama does not hold government office. Are govenment servers available to his transition team?- What are the differences in privacy expectation between data held on a government server and data held on a private server? (For instance, is the former subject to FOIA requests that the latter would protect against?)

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: is, after all, a dot-gov. Doesn’t that tell us the Obama team has been given access to a government server? President-elect is an official position, and Obama is entitled to a variety of services and funds in that capacity.As for your second point, if information can be gotten as the result of a FOIA request, the mere fact of moving it to a private server does not suddenly turn that into non-public information. That’s why Obama is giving up his BlackBerry.

  5. Steve

    Dan – I am not completely familiar with the rules concerning the .gov domain – I’m not sure the domain requires or even implies a government server.And I didn’t know there was an official “President-elect” position, but it sure makes sense. (I have seen a lot of harrumphing on right-wing websites about the “Office of the President-elect” seal on Obama’s podium.)

  6. Ari Herzog

    Thanks for the shout-out, Dan.To add some ideas to the above, the transition team “owns” (via the General Services Administration) two domains: and If something is a dot-gov, it must be a U.S. government agency, e.g. paid by taxpayer dollars.As for FOIA, when I received the followup email from their team (that led me to the Cluen-powered page), I saw an initial page that included this line:”You should be aware that the information you provide during any part of the process may ultimately be subject to public disclosure, if requested, per the Freedom of Information Act.”This tells me that even if one is not brought in for an interview, the notion of SUBMITTING INFORMATION is subject to FOIA while on a non dot-gov server.

  7. zadig

    1) I don’t know why anyone would be surprised by the intrusive questions. Not vetting people properly has been the bane of recent pols (e.g., Sarah Palin). Makes sense for the Obama team to cover all bases – it’s the way they seem to work, most of the time. Thorough and disciplined.2) I’m surprised that personnel records aren’t somewhat protected from FOIA requests. They seem to me as if they’d be special in some way, so that they would need to be redacted before release or something. Aren’t gov’t personnel records more protected than other gov’t data?

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Zadig: My somewhat educated guess is that the records of those who are not hired would not be subject to FOIA, and that only a few basic facts would be public even with those who are hired.

  9. io saturnalia!

    Interesting discussion, and it reminds me of Obama’s invitation to supporters (and, I suppose others) to sign up for a text message or e-mail to be among the first to hear of his vice presidential pick. In exchange for a sense of groovy “insider” status, people helped Obama amass a bona fide directory of e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers not otherwise available.What some dismissed as a gimmick was actually a savvy (or nefarious, depending on one’s perspective) fundraising tool at the cost of a bit of privacy. Suckers.

  10. Ron Newman

    Formally, Barack Obama is not yet the President-Elect because the Electors have not yet voted. That will occur on December 15.

  11. O-FISH-L

    Can’t help but chuckle at the thought of Hillary squirming to fill out the portions of the questionnaire that deal with embarassing acts by spouse. Does Obama give the “use back of form if you run out of room” option?

  12. Don, American

    Could “none of your business” be an appropriate answer?

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