Digital Easter egg in new Biden White House website has job invitation for tech workers

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A screenshot obtained January 20, 2021, shows HTML code on https://www.whitehouse.gov/ containing an invitation to join the U.S. Digital Service, a technology unit within the White House.

Reuters

A digital “Easter egg” buried in the software code in the Biden administration’s newly updated White House website has a welcoming message for tech workers who stumble across it: There’s a job waiting for you.

“If you’re reading this, we need your help building back better,” says a line in the HTML code for the home of WhiteHouse.gov.

The line ends with a link to the website of the U.S. Digital Service, an executive branch division whose staff builds and improves digital tools used by people interacting with the federal government electronically.

Isaac Hepworth, a Microsoft employee, highlighted the unusual “Help Wanted” listing in a Twitter post Wednesday, just after Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

Hepworth’s post was replying to a tweet from an editor at The Verge, who complimented the updated White House website for having a “dark mode” that allows viewers to have a black background for the text and photos.

The unusual job listing can be viewed by anyone, tech type or otherwise, by using a “developer” tool from the pulldown menu on a web browser such as Chrome or Firefox.

The Digital Service did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the listing.

But on its own web site, the agency said, “The U.S. Digital Service is excited to report that we’ve recently received a large number of applications.”

“We’re reviewing them as quickly as we can, and will respond shortly. We thank you for your patience!”

It was not clear if the applications stemmed from the WhiteHouse.gov code link.

The Digital Service uses a tour-of-service model, which hires workers for a maximum term of four years, with most of them doing stints of one or two years.

The somewhat secret want ad replicates one that likewise was hidden in the HTML code for Biden’s presidential transition website, buildbackbetter.gov, which also linked to the Digital Service’s job application.

Newsweek reported in November that the anonymous “hacktivist” known as “The Jester” first spotted that Easter egg in the transition’s website.

“The Jester” at the time noted in a Twitter post that the hidden message “harkens back” to the practice of British intelligence agencies recruiting would-be code breakers by conducting difficult crossword and puzzle competitions in newspapers.

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