The policy says Obama will keep some information — automatically generated email data, Mobile App use data and some cookie data — until the end of the current administration. The White House is also explicit about what it doesn't do, including collecting geolocation information from mobile-app users or sharing information for commercial purposes.
The policy is being released at a time when the administration is facing unprecedented criticism over disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs. The policy aims to address at least some of those concerns.
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said they also do not give third parties, including the political organization Obama for America or the U.S. National Security Agency, access to their email database or other systems.
"Within the White House, we restrict access to personally identifiable information to employees, contractors, and vendors subject to non-disclosure requirements who require access to this information in order to perform their official duties and exercise controls to limit what data they can view based on the specific needs of their position," the policy says.
For example, if someone gives the White House a telephone number or email address, staffers might respond to the message or petition, providing information or even services if appropriate. They might also take messages, comments, Twitter replies and Facebook comments to use for public advocacy, like promoting Obama's health care overhaul.
If a user asks the White House a question that is really about homeland security, the user's information may be shared with that agency. And if someone is trying to report a federal crime, or threatening someone, that person's information may be passed on to law enforcement.
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.