Lehrich said that when people share comments or sign online petitions through the We the People platform, it's with the understanding that it is public information.
Reviews from privacy experts — who have been watching the privacy-policy revisions closely — were mixed.
The biggest problem, said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., is not what happens when users are on WhiteHouse.gov, but when they click onto the White House's third-party social media sites that don't abide by Obama's own privacy rules and may sell personal data they glean from users.
"Interacting with the White House and its different sites is inherently political, and that type of thing shouldn't be used for commercial gain," Scott said.
Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, said the new policy underscores the administration's ongoing interest in collecting data. "You see it across the board. You saw it in the campaign. You see it in the White House petitions. This is just one more step toward amassing more information," he said.
Jaycox said the new policy is not explicit enough about what the White House does with information it gathers. "The onerous thing is we don't know what they're doing on the back end with all of this data," he said.
But several privacy experts praised the new policy as more explicit and understandable.
"It's a nice gesture by the White House," said Federation of American Scientists secrecy expert Steven Aftergood in Washington. "I think the move reflects a heightened public awareness of privacy concerns, which is commendable."
Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director John Simpson said that in terms of pure disclosure, "this seems to be one of the better policies, a model perhaps for others."
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