White House official to testify about preserving Facebook, Twitter records

Office of Administration CIO Colangelo to appear before House committee on May 3

White House CIO Brook Colangelo is scheduled to testify before a House committee May 3 on whether the Presidential Records Act of 1978 should to be updated to deal with new forms of digital records, such as Facebook and Twitter postings.

Colangelo is the CIO in the Office of Administration in the Executive Office of the President.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said his goal is to improve transparency of presidential records. Issa raised the issue a year ago in a controversy over actions by Andrew McLaughlin, the White House's deputy chief technology officer at the time.

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Last year, Issa said additional penalties should be imposed against McLaughlin for his use of personal e-mail messages to discuss policy with former colleagues at Google. The White House reprimanded McLaughlin, while saying he made the mistake inadvertently and it had no effect on policy. However, Issa said the reprimand did not go far enough. McLaughlin left the position in December 2010.

Under White House policy, communications among the president, his staffers and third parties — including communications that occur on official social networking accounts such as Twitter and Facebook — may be preserved as official records.

However, Issa maintains that White House policies for the use of unofficial accounts on social media sites are vague.

“Policies regarding the use of ‘unofficial’ accounts for ‘official’ communication are far from clear,” Issa said in a press release April 28.

“White House policy instructs staffers who receive e-mails on unofficial or personal accounts which contain official business to voluntarily preserve those e-mails as Presidential Records,” the release states. “The policy does not address the preservation of records which may be generated from personal use of Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, SMS or other forms of communication.”

White House officials were not immediately available to respond to Issa's statement.

David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, is also scheduled to testify before the committee.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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