After Fox News reported that hundreds of people had received unsolicited emails from the White House, the administration said it would change how people sign up for their email list and blamed third party groups for signing people up without their permission.
Fox News reporter Major Garrett went after Press Secretary Robert Gibbs last week, demanding to know how people -- who said they'd never signed up for the email list -- received an email from senior adviser David Axelrod. Garrett implied that the administration may have used political email lists from Organizing for America (but later backtracked). Commenters to Garrett's blog, as well as Fox News analysts, theorized that the White House may have been collecting the addresses of anyone who visited the site, with one even suggesting the government could gain access to people's personal computers if they visited any .gov web site.
But it seems that anyone who sent an email via whitehouse.gov's "contact us" page was signing up to receive emails, according to Fox. Many of Garrett's sources who said they'd received unwanted emails had emailed the White House recently, and probably didn't realize they were signing on to a list.
The White House has added a check box to the contact us page so commenters can opt out of receiving future emails, Fox reports. They've also added a captcha, which verifies that users are real people by having them type in a random word. Fox says these measures appeared yesterday; we're checking in with the White House to verify.
But not everyone had emailed the White House. In a statement, deputy press secretary Nick Shapiro said "advocacy organizations" may have used people's email addresses without their permission.
"We are implementing measures to make subscribing to emails clearer, including preventing advocacy organizations from signing people up to our lists without their permission when they deliver petition signatures and other messages on individual's behalf," he said.
Shapiro was very clear that the administration doesn't buy email lists or obtain addresses from anywhere except the White House web site.
Fox News has stayed on the story, airing segments as many as three times an hour.