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Obama administration: Internet rogues need not apply

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine neither you nor I will be working for President-elect Barack Obama’s administration in any high-ranking official position (that is, unless any of you intend to pursue the Chief Technology Officer job we’ve heard so much about).

But that shouldn’t stop us from gawking at the seven-page questionnaire one must fill out to apply for a top job in the Obama administration, according to a New York Times report. It also raises an interesting question for CIOs: To what extent do you keep track of your employees’ outside-of-work online presence? 

The Obama questionnaire asks whether the applicant and his/her spouse or immediate family members have been affiliated with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, American International Group, Washington Mutual or any other institutions receiving a government bailout, the Times reports. It questions the immigration status of applicants’ housekeepers, nannies, chauffeurs and yard-workers, and whether the applicant has paid the required taxes for household employees. It even asks about diary entries that could be potentially harmful to Obama if they were to get out.

And here’s the tech angle: Applicants must include any email “that might embarrass the president-elect,” along with any blog posts and links to their Facebook pages. The application also asks people to “please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the Internet.”

It’s a good thing I don’t plan on joining Obama’s cabinet any time soon, because I don’t even know where to start. Sure, Obama, you can view my Facebook page, but don’t ask me to be responsible for some of the acronyms my friends might leave on my “Wall.” All of my online “handles”? I know I often use derivations of my first name, last name and favorite numbers, but I couldn’t list them all for you. Embarrassing emails? Define embarrassing. I think we all correspond with friends over things that could be personally embarrassing to us if they got out, but does Obama care that I’m embarrassed that I ate all of my dinner and half of my friend’s meal too?

Yes, I’m being a bit facetious here. Like many people, I try to stay on top of my online “image” through Google searches and Facebook-page culling. And I haven’t documented any criminal activity in blogs or emails, as far as I’m aware. But it does raise the question of what red flags the Obama campaign will be searching for.

The Times article rightly points out that applications for high-ranking government posts always evolve over time and adjust to new technologies. But I think this degree of thoroughness is specific not only to the times, but also to Obama, whose tech-savvy campaign should now be considered a bellwether. He appears to understand not only the positive attributes of the Internet – the way it can bring people together and build communities – but also the why-did-I-write-that? faux pas it documents and preserves.

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