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LegiStorm Is Now Tracking Your Tweets, Congressional Staffers

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, April 5 2013

A new service from LegiStorm promises to aggregate tweets from congressional staffers along with those of lawmakers themselves, the company announced on its DevBlog last week.

The service, called StormFeed, "makes available every tweet and press release of Congress in real time."

Politico reports that this has drawn the ire of some Congressional staffers — some of whom were already irked at the way LegiStorm makes their salaries and job titles, which are public record under disclosure laws, easily available.

Legistorm's updated interface for each member of Congress and staffer now includes a StormFeed section showing tweets and press releases from that person, the press release explains, with the tweets updating every few seconds.

"Staffers aren’t elected officials. Where is that line with regard to personal privacy?" Politico quoted one House Republican staffer.

"[Unlike] members, staffers have not signed up for the public eye in their own personal lives off hours,” Politico quoted a House Democratic chief of staff. "This action by LegiStorm does nothing to provide greater transparency on Congress. Instead, it is another action — like the sequester cuts — that causes good staffers to wonder if all the sacrifices are worth it.”

LegiStorm editor Garrett Snedeker told Politico that the service would not include Twitter accounts marked protected, and noted that the site has already linked to personal Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts when available.

As Politico also noted, LegiStorm also explains its new service in its privacy policy:

"LegiStorm has taken the further step of aggregating public tweets of members of Congress and staff. We believe that what people in Congress are talking about publicly informs how they might be thinking about the issues coming up for debate. Due to the nature of the medium, that may include tweets that have nothing to do with Congress."

The catch-all "staffer" includes spokespeople, who frequently speak on behalf of their member of Congress, and the legislative and policy staff who help to shape legislation. And Twitter has functionality that allows a user to set their feed "private," meaning only people that user chooses to follow back will see their tweets. That hasn't stopped staffers from at least attempting in the past to plead privacy protection for information they release into a public place.