Should Congressional Staffers Have Their Private Twitter Accounts Published?

A Congressional watchdog group called LegiStorm has announced a sweeping new project aimed at government transparency. But part of that project has staffers on Capitol Hill crying foul because it lists all their private Twitter accounts.

On April 3, LegiStorm announced its new StormFeed tool saying it is a, “real-time, full-text searchable access to every official press release and official tweet from Capitol Hill plus the tweets of thousands of congressional staffers.”

But many staffers began to complain when they began finding their own private info on the thing. Worse, many found out of date or simply wrong info on it. As one staffer told Politico, “I was pretty surprised to show that they even listed who I married, when I married him and where. Why in the world does that need to be in there?”

Politico also said this: “A Democratic staffer said the new feature brings an unwelcome level of scrutiny to a group of people who haven’t sought the spotlight.”

Democrat or no, isn’t this staffer correct, here?

Listen, I am no fan of Hill staffers and have in the past said that most of them should be fired. It is a bad thing for our Republic that these people spend decades being passed from one Congressman or Senator to another even when said elected officials lose elections and go home. I am 100% against the idea of a permanent class of political operatives that never leave Washington that many of these staffers represent. Further, I am against the idea that these staffers sit around all day writing up legislation that our elected officials never actually see before sending it to a floor vote.

However…

These people are private citizens. They aren’t elected and what they say doesn’t represent our elected officials unless those elected officials have made them a spokesman.

A staffer has a right to make an off color joke on Twitter without expecting what he said to become a federal case.

Now, I am all for listing and monitoring the official Twitter feeds of elected officials. I am also for the monitoring of any personal Twitter account they have because, after all, they are the elected official. But Hill staffers should have to fear their own personal social media being monitored as if they are the elected official.

Track what staffers do as part of their job, yes. But leave their personal Twitter accounts alone, won’t you? It is a step too far into of invasion of privacy.

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Posted by on April 6, 2013.
Filed under Big government, Congress, corruption, Democrats, House of Representatives, Leftist Tolerance, Liberals, Media, Senate, Senate.
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago-based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com and BigJournalism.com, RightWingNews.com, CanadaFreePress.com, RightPundits.com, StoptheACLU.com, Human Events Magazine, among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events.He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book "Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture" which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of PubliusForum.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions, EMAIL Warner Todd Huston: igcolonel .at. hotmail.com"The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it." --Samuel Johnson

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  • LiberalNightmare

    We live in a world where we are watched and monitored more closely than at any time before, and its going to get worse.

    In many ways these staffers are the one that are building the legal apparatus that is used to violate our privacy every day.

    Why should we feel more compassion for them and their privacy than they feel for us?

    • http://www.wizbangblog.com David Robertson

      Because we are supposed to do the right thing toward others even if others don’t always do the right thing toward us. It is an application of the Golden Rule.

      • Commander_Chico

        The Golden Rule issue is, if you are engaging in public communications, how do you really want to be treated?

        Chico does public communications here in the comments. Chico takes some vituperative attacks. Chico knows this is par for the course, but Chico is not Chico’s real name.

        Don’t want the public to read your tweets? Set your Twitter profile to private. Use an anonymous handle.

        The nature and purpose of Twitter is broad publication and attention-whoring, so you can’t complain when people pay attention, even if it’s attention you did not want.

        Brings to mind this story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093796/Emily-Bunting-Leigh-Van-Bryan-UK-tourists-arrested-destroy-America-Twitter-jokes.html

        Your Homeland Security at work.

        This is not the same as the NSA storing all of our private emails and phone calls for possible review.

        It’s called “expectation of privacy.” If I have a Twitter account open to the world, I have no expectation of privacy.

        • http://www.wizbangblog.com David Robertson

          If I have a Twitter account open to the world, I have no expectation of privacy.

          So, are those D.C. staffers saying that their Twitter accounts were hacked into, or are their Twitter accounts set in a way so that anyone can view them?

          If it is the latter case, then are their Twitter accounts truly private?

          • Commander_Chico

            I think the issue was publishing the Twitter handles of staffers that were set for public access.

            Twitter is basically like a blog – unless you set it to private where only those you invite can read it.

            In the past, they could joke about getting drunk, slutting around and only a few friends were paying attention, even though anyone could read.

          • warnertoddhuston

            My problem isn’t that just anyone can see a staffer’s Twitter–they can. My problem is listing them AS staffers all in one spot. These guys Twitter accounts aren’t for “professional” use. They are their own accounts. I think making a list of them all in one place links their own personal thoughts to their work and it is a step too far. Now, if they DO say something stupid I see no reason not to publicize it and make political hay out of it. But I just think it is a step too far to list them all in one place like that. It seems like an invasion of privacy to me. Also, I’d like to add, all they have to do is abandon that one and start a new one and it makes compiling the list rather pointless on top of it all.

          • jim_m

            Bingo!

            A Twitter account is like an email account in that it can be used for communicating government business. There is no expectation of privacy in government activity. If they don’t like it they can go work elsewhere. (of course that’s the problem with the left, they don’t want there to be any elsewhere to work. They want all jobs to be government controlled jobs)

      • herddog505

        Agreed… no matter how hard it is!

      • jim_m

        That is a miss application of said rule.

        Yes we would have it that our privacy is protected. But they do not believe the same way. They create laws that they expect us to obey while exempting themselves from having to comply. They are creating one rule for us and another rule for themselves.

        The law states that they cannot conduct public business using private email accounts. This is called being accountable. If they are usig private messages on Twitter to communicate public business in a manner that is clandestine they need to have accountability. The recent EPA director had multiple email accounts in alias names to avoid public scrutiny of her activities. These people are trying to circumscribe our freedoms. They can very well do so under the scrutiny of the public.

        • herddog505

          If they are trying to use “private” accounts to conduct (or, more precisely, HIDE) public business, that’s one thing. But this, it seems to me, is not much more than the sort of harassment that liberals engage in. “We don’t like your politics, so we’re going to come after you PERSONALLY.”

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Sow the wind…

  • herddog505

    WTHI am no fan of Hill staffers and have in the past said that most of them should be fired. It is a bad thing for our Republic that these people spend decades being passed from one Congressman or Senator to another even when said elected officials lose elections and go home… However… These people are private citizens…

    I agree with all of the above.

  • JWH

    I see no issue with aggregating congressional staffers’ Twitter accounts — personal or official — in one place. If you have a Twitter handle, that handle is public information, and you have no expectation of privacy in that handle. If you don’t want people reading your tweets, make them private.

    As far as congressional staffers … they are public officials. They’re also lobbyists-in-training and congressmen-in-training. If any one of them is stupid enough to put something he doesn’t want public on his Twitter feed, that staffer is too stupid to be in politics.