Barack Obama was determined to take his Blackberry into the White House and it appears he's done it. On Monday, a government agency added a "super-encryption package" to a standard Blackberry, according to reports. It has yet to be confirmed whether the device is in fact for Obama or if he even has it yet. Bureaucrats were reluctant to approve the device for the new President, because of numerous security concerns including information leaks and the ability to get a lock on the President's location. It seems those problems may have been solved.
Nevertheless, the Obama-berry could be subject to limitations similar to those placed on devices used previous White House staffers. PDA users in the Bush Administration had their GPS functions disabled, no classified data could be transmitted over the devices, and they could not be used overseas where cell networks might be less secure. Considering that Obama intends to use his device for personal use and routine messages, those limitations shouldn't pose a problem for the first cyber President.
Team Obama 1, Bureaucrats 0
Despite this small victory against the entrenched bureaucracy of the West Wing, Obama's team is finding it difficult to adjust to their new surroundings. Yesterday, we heard how the President and his team were forced to use Gmail accounts while they wait for their White House e-mail to become active. Now there are reports from the Washington Post that plans to use social networking may be kyboshed. Facebook is out, logging in to outside e-mail is forbidden, and, as we've heard before, no instant messaging allowed. Twitter should be safe since the Bush Administration also used it, but there's no word on the fate of Obama's Flickr page or his ability to use YouTube as his primary video delivery service.
Other problems that have already dogged the new Administration include outdated software and a dearth of essential tech tools like laptops and cell phones. These problems may explain why Obama's Whitehouse.gov is a shadow of its content-rich predecessors Change.gov and BarackObama.com. The Whitehouse blog doesn't allow comments and hasn't been updated since Tuesday: It doesn't even have the President's inaugural address. Also, though several executive orders were issued on Wednesday, the documents have yet to appear on their assigned Web page.
Obama promised a new era of transparency and openness, with the Web as his main conduit of information. To accomplish that, however, he will need to overcome his most serious obstacle yet: red tape.