Friday, January 07, 2011

Obama's Blackberry

I'm not sure why I decided to look up presidential email usage, but it lead me to the discussion that surrounded President Obama getting to keep his Blackberry:
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that "a pretty small group of people" — some senior staffers and personal friends — will be permitted to have the e-mail address that reaches Obama's smartphone.

His use will be curtailed due to security issues:
Gibbs said Obama's use of the BlackBerry will be limited and security will be enhanced, most likely with heavy encryption to deter information from winding up in the hands of hackers or others who would want to see harm come to him or to the United States.

One feature the device likely will not use is a GPS chip, which could help locate its important user’s whereabouts.

President Obama sees this as a way to stay in touch with reality:
The BlackBerry's symbolism and use is key to Obama personally. "I think he believes it’s a way of keeping in touch with folks," and not "getting stuck in a bubble," said Gibbs, who added he has received e-mails from Obama in the past that range from "very strictly business, to why did my football team perform so miserably on any given Saturday or any given Sunday? So I think he finds it an important way to continue to communicate."

Obama views the connection to the outside world as vital, seeing it as a tool to help him “stay in touch with the flow of everyday life,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show recently.

It is not just security issues, but privacy and legal issues:
Initially, it seemed, the president was going to give up the device once he took office because of security and legal issues. Presidential e-mails also can be subpoenaed.

Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did not use e-mail while in office. Before taking office for his first term, Bush e-mailed friends and relatives about why he would no longer be using electronic mail.

"Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace," he wrote to them.

Obama's Blackberry will probably be subject to the Presidential Records Act so his personal emails will probably be entering the public record. Email already has been a hotbed of discussion for preservation and this just continues the debate.

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