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FCW Insider: The ethics of Obama's YouTube videos

Is President-elect Barack Obama's use of YouTube a "no-bid giveaway" to the social networking site?


That is the argument put forward by Chris Soghoian, who writes for CNet's Surveillance State blog, who notes that as of last Monday, the video of Obama's first weekly address had already received close to a million views.


Soghoian believes it is "simply improper to rely on YouTube to foot the bandwidth bill for Obama's messages to the people." He also makes the case that "the use of YouTube and Google Analytics by the Obama transition team violates the privacy of Web site visitors and possibly even violates federal rules banning the use of permanent tracking cookies on government sites."


Soghoian's solution? The federal government "needs to step up and host its own videos," he writes.


True, the transition team posted the video on other sites, including AOL, Yahoo and MSN. "However, I do think it is fairly reasonable to assume that a decent percentage of those nearly 1 million views came from people visiting Change.gov, the taxpayer-funded, official site of the Obama transition team," he writes.


Acquisition concerns aside, Soghoian believes the Obama team is overlooking the potential privacy pitfalls, because of YouTube's use of persistent cookies to track visitors. Those problems are exacerbated by the fact that YouTube is owned by Google, which already collects a mind-boggling amount of data on Web users.


"And even if you believe Google's 'do no evil' motto, it seems at least a little bit creepy for the company to track each time someone visits Change.gov--especially when that person doesn't actually press the play button to watch Obama's latest message to the people."


Click here to read Soghoian's complete post.

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Nov 26, 2008 at 12:18 PM


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