The Tech News Blog

March 31, 2014 Signups Hosed Amidst Deadline Surge

The government's online health insurance marketplace is once again running smoothly after being hit with a technical glitch Monday.

The problem occurred as Americans flooded the site in record numbers to enroll for coverage before the 2014 deadline. For a little more than an hour, some of those who attempted to enroll through the site were unable to submit a new application. The problem has since been resolved and everything is back up and running, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters told

"There are a record number of people on right now — more than 100,000 people concurrently in the system as of noon," Peters said. "The tech team monitoring in real time identified an issue with users creating new accounts — the issue has now been fixed."

Those who were already in the system were able to complete their enrollments, and were not affected by the glitch, Peters added.

October 28, 2013

Syrian Hackers Target Obama Twitter, Facebook Feeds

Obama NSA Reform

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is back, and the hacker group this weekend once again took aim at the White House.

As first noted by The Blaze, an older donation page on Barack Obama's campaign website temporarily redirected visitors to a blank page that said "Hacked by SEA" over the weekend.

The group's campaign, however, also extended to Obama's Twitter and Facebook accounts. On its own Twitter feed, the SEA posted a screen shot of the Gmail account of Suzanne Snurpus, who works on "We accessed many Obama campaign emails accounts to assess his terrorism capabilities," the SEA wrote in an accompanying tweet.

The SEA was also able to sign in to the Obama campaign's Blue State Digital (BSD) account, a firm that helps candidates with online campaigning and organizing. Access to BSD, according to Mashable, allowed the SEA to alter the links being posted to Obama's Twitter and Facebook accounts. For a time, those links redirected to a video of violence in Syria, but they appear to be working correctly now.

In total, the SEA allegedly hacked eight email accounts in order to pull of this weekend's hack, the group told Mashable. Back in July, the group targeted the White House, securing its Hootsuite login and password. Passwords it secured for the @WhiteHouse account, however, were all old. "You were lucky this time," the SEA wrote at the time.

October 24, 2013

Claws Come Out as Contractors Defend

Several of the contractors behind the beleaguered appeared before a House panel today, arguing that they fulfilled their end of the bargain and placing much of the blame on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which ultimately flipped the switch.

Representatives from CGI Federal, Optum/QSSI, Equifax Workforce Solutions, and Serco - just four of the 55 contractors hired to get off the ground - told the House Energy & Commerce Committee that, separately, the technology they developed worked just fine. But when all 55 parts were combined and the site went live on Oct. 1, it buckled under the pressure, leaving many people unable to sign up and check out their healthcare options.

President Obama appeared in the Rose Garden earlier this week to acknowledge the troubles, and pledged to redouble the government's efforts to get the site running at full capacity. The contractors echoed that sentiment today, arguing that performance problems have improved dramatically since launch, and claiming that consumers should have no trouble signing up before next year's deadline to secure service.

According to Andrew Slavitt, group executive vice president for Optum/QSSI - which handles data verification for the site - overloaded servers were a major problem. " was inundated with many more consumers than anticipated," he said.

October 21, 2013

President Pledges Fix for Obamacare Website Glitches

President Obama on Monday admitted that has had a rocky rollout, but vowed to fix the website via the "tech surge" announced Sunday by the Health and Human Services Department.

"Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as it should," Obama said during a speech in the Rose Garden. "Which means it's going to get fixed."

Obama said the "overwhelming" response to on Oct. 1, when the site first opened, "aggravated underlying problems" with the site. HHS is now "working overtime" to boost capacity and address the problem, he continued.

The president said that private sector companies who have dealt with similar problems have reached out to offer their expertise, but he did not say who those firms were. During a press briefing this afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney also declined to name names, except to say they are "additional contractors" as well as "a few experts" from the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program helping with this tech surge.

Carney declined to comment on whether it was a mistake to select CGI Group to work on the rollout, referring reporters to HHS.

November 7, 2012

Obama Re-Election Results in Record Twitter Activity

Twitter Record

The race for the White House finally came to a close last night, with President Obama holding on to his role as the U.S. commander in chief. But what the election also revealed was the newly important role Twitter has come to play in public affairs. The social-networking service was the epicenter for commentary for professional pundits, political luminaries, and citizens alike, breaking at least two records of note.

According to a Twitter blog post, the election was the most tweeted about political event in the company's almost seven-year history, logging 31 million tweets in the hours leading up to the announcement of the race's final results.

The Twitter activity reached its peak when networks began to call the race for Obama, resulting in 327,452 tweets per minute. During the final stretch of the election, as the Twitter team watched user activity from the back-end, the company's CEO, Dick Costolo, tweeted, "Wow. The tweets they are many. Incredible." Costolo's comment was soon punctuated by Twitter engineer Dana Contreras, who tweeted, "Unbelievable tweets-per-second graph."

July 11, 2012

Smartphone Users More Likely to Vote Obama

obama instagram

Are smartphone users really smarter? The answer likely depends on your political views because a new Velti survey has revealed a 20 percent difference between Android and iPhone users' probable voting choices and those of non-smartphone users.

When asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held today, 49 percent of smartphone users chose the incumbent, President Barack Obama, while just 31 percent selected Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, traditional polling that doesn't select for gadget use shows a much tighter race, with Obama currently just 2 points up on Romney.

Smartphone users are becoming an entirely new demographic that candidates and advertisers need to consider during campaigns, Velti chief marketing officer Krishna Subramanian said.

"Clearly, mobile advertising is emerging as an influential medium and a distinct audience," she said.

She cited Romney's iAd campaign, which didn't exactly strike the chord the presidential hopeful was aiming for due to an unfortunate spelling error. Despite that foul-up, Subramanian is hoping more political campaigns will try similar marketing tactics, perhaps with a quick spell check.

Most importantly, Subramanian said, is the growing understanding of how important this relatively new demographic is, and what a difference brand awareness and consumer behavior can make when addressing a generation of smartphone users.

May 24, 2012

Obama Calls for Govt. Apps as Part of Digital Strategy

Obama Headphones

On Thursday, President Obama ordered each branch of the federal government to develop at least two apps, providing access to essential services on mobile phones.

Obama also said that it will continue to work hard to make grater amounts of data available to the public, as part of a digital strategy that will use the data to create more opportunities.

The administration also said that it would create a "Presidential Innovation Fellows program" to bring in outside talent and ask them to make health, education, energy, safety, and personal finance information that the government already collects more accessible and consumer-friendly. The newly-appointed U.S. chief technology officer, Todd Park, will oversee the operation.

"Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device," Obama said in a statement. "By making important services accessible from your phone and sharing government data with entrepreneurs, we are giving hard-working families and businesses tools that will help them succeed."

January 23, 2012

Obama to ‘Hang Out,’ Answer Questions on Google+

Those who have ever dreamed of hanging out with President Barack Obama might soon get a chance to do just that—albeit virtually.

Obama next week plans to participate in a 45-minute live video chat session on the social media site Google+ to answer questions from the public about his State of the Union address, the White House announced Monday. The chat will happen over Google + Hangouts, a video-conferencing service integrated into the social network.

The virtual interview will be streamed live on Monday, Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m. ET on the official White House Google+ page, which was launched late last week, as well as

Those with a question for Obama are being encouraged to visit the White House YouTube channel, where they can submit video and text queries until midnight on Saturday. Users can then vote for their favorite questions.