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Correction: White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro said that the switch from YouTube to *Akamai* was about testing various video capabilities for Whitehouse.gov — not a response to privacy concerns. CNET, the original source, issued a correction. We’ve written an update here.
YouTube helped fuel Barack Obama’s popularity. Now, the site has also gotten the new president into some hot water with privacy advocates. The Obama administration has stopped using embeddable YouTube videos on the Whitehouse.gov site, in favor of clips powered by Akamai (NSDQ: AKAM), after media outlets like CNET and privacy advocates like the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Frontier Foundation raised public complaints about user-privacy issues.
The main problem was that YouTube served long-term tracking cookies to every visitor to the president’s blog, even if they didn’t click “play” to watch the video; with Akamai there are no concerns about YouTube or parent company Google (NSDQ: GOOG) tracking visitors’ movements, since the videos are coming from the White House’s own servers now (via CNET).
More after the jump.
As the Washington Post notes, the Obama team is finding that adhering to its goal of governing transparently is a difficult task. The weekly video chats were designed to help more viewers engage with the administration and its goals — and YouTube’s popularity clearly factored in to it being the initial platform — but the underlying technology struck a negative chord with privacy advocates.
The White House, in trying to use technology to reach the masses, is also running into other infrastructure issues, including the inability to send mass e-mail updates or text messages, or post info about upcoming bills to Whitehouse.gov far enough in advance so that visitors can review and comment on them before the President votes.
Some of the delays are procedural: the Presidential Records Act mandates that web pages be archived whenever they’re modified, slowing down site updates and additions. But others are partly because there isn’t any protocol for things like weekly video addresses or mass commenting on pending legislation. “This is uncharted territory,” White House director of new media, Macon Phillips, told the *Washington Post*, the site is “an ongoing experiment.”
Photo Credit: Pete Souza via Whitehouse.gov