White House web guy scolded for contact with Google colleagues, first caught by Google Buzz privacy flaw

Andrew McLaughlin, deputy White House web chief, was reprimanded for improperly using personal e-mail to consult former colleagues at Google, The Hill reported today. He apparently consulted Vint Cerf among others on issues including network neutrality, and used his personal Gmail account in violation of a pledge he signed.

The White House requires staffers to use official e-mail for all business to ease compliance with rules requiring the maintenance of presidential record. The fun part, though, is that this was apparently first noticed because of the much-discussed privacy flaw embedded in Google Buzz at the time of its sudden release that revealed frequent contacts.

This goes to show that it’s not just activists in authoritarian countries who could get into political trouble because of privacy slips. Here’s Tony Romm on how it happened.

Concern that McLaughlin may have violated federal archiving and ethics rules first arose in April, upon the debut of Google Buzz. The new social network, which automatically adds a user’s recent contacts to his or her subscriber list, reflected that McLaughlin had communicated in the past with top Google staffers.

The link was not totally surprising, given McLaughlin’s previous position as Google’s head of global public policy.

But after seeing McLaughlin’s contacts on Google Buzz, Consumer Watchdog filed a FOIA request for his e-mails, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) questioned McLaughlin’s conduct in his own, separate missive.

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