January 5, 2010

The White House visitor logs need improvement

With the recent release of 25,000+ visitor logs from the White House, this would be a great time for the Obama Administration to make the logs more complete and useful.

A great place to start would be a new and improved disclosure policy:

The White House will not release fields within the access records that implicate personal privacy or law enforcement concerns (e.g., dates of birth, social security numbers, and contact phone numbers);

Social security and phone numbers are understandable, but why birthdays? Birthdays would go a long way in determining if a given visitor just happens to have a famous name or is a famous person. While it certainly looks like Bill Gates visited the White House twice in 2009, is there anyway to be sure? Including birthdays would not be a panacea, but it would make the visitor log data more useful to the public.

The White House will not release access records related to purely personal guests of the first and second families (i.e., visits that do not involve any official or political business).

Why not include personal guests too? I understand that not everything the President does is in an official capacity, but personal visits should still be noted in these records. Without seeing some kind of record, we won't know what kind of personal visits are taking place. And it would be naive to think the personal and political isn't very intertwined.

To make the White House visitor logs more useful this Administration should include personal visits and include birthdays in the data to see what notable guests the President is meeting with.