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As we've discussed here at Econsultancy before, United States President Barack Obama loves social media. He used it with remarkable success during his campaign and he's using it as president.

But the popular website he used to serve his weekly video address on WhiteHouse.gov has unceremoniously been ditched.

That website, of course, is YouTube, and the reason is simple: privacy concerns.

YouTube, by default, places a long-term cookie on YouTube visitors' computers. Google, of course, loves data and the data collected from cookies set on Google's star media property is almost certainly of great value and interest to the search giant.

But what's good for Google isn't necessarily good for the people of the United States. By serving videos and other content itself, as can be seen with the latest address, the White House is able fully control privacy policies on WhiteHouse.gov.

Previously, it had been criticized for embedding YouTube videos, as they resulted in a cookie being placed on each visitor's computer, regardless of whether or not the visitor even played the YouTube video.

YouTube has rolled out an update which gives users the ability to embed videos with a 'delayed cookies' option, which serves videos from a different domain - www.youtube-nocookie.com. News.com's Chris Soghoian points out that this domain was registered soon after the WhiteHouse.gov privacy issue was brought up.

But for now, it seems like the move is too little, too late.

That's a good thing and the White House's decision to drop YouTube embedding highlights the fact that when it comes to social media, the Obama team still 'gets it'. YouTube may be the hottest video site that social media gurus use avidly, but when it comes to privacy, compromise is never an option because losing the trust of a community is never an option. By taking privacy concerns seriously and addressing them, it's clear the people running WhiteHouse.gov valued their community more than the mere use of a hot website.

As for Google, perhaps Obama's move away from YouTube embedding will serve as a much-needed reminder that its cute "do no evil" slogan isn't assurance enough when it comes to issues like privacy. Users and content providers alike want more than empty rhetoric, to put it in political terms.

Patricio Robles

Published 3 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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