Do Not Eat The Cookies!

wh_cookiesDirectly on the heels of asking citizens to report other citizens’ “fishy” comments about Obamacare, comes the news that the White House wants to track visitors to .gov websites with electronic cookies.

According to Raw Story:

A White House proposal to end a long-standing policy forbidding government websites from tracking users could lead to “the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website,” says the ACLU.

Civil liberties groups like the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are lining up against a plan, proposed by the Obama administration, to end a policy that has been in place since 2000 preventing government websites from installing tracking cookies on users’ computers.

“This is a sea change in government privacy policy,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, in a statement. “Without explaining this reversal of policy, the [White House Office of Management and Budget] is seeking to allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website. Until the OMB answers the multitude of questions surrounding this policy shift, we will continue to raise our strenuous objections.”

Opponents of the proposal point out that tracking cookies can be used not only to keep track of what an individual has done or seen on the website in question, but also to track what other websites that person has visited, and what personal information they have handed over to the website. Thus, it is often possible to identify a computer user based on data stored in tracking cookies.

“It appears that these companies are forcing the government to lower the privacy protections that the government had promised the American people,” Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Washington Post. “The government should be requiring companies to raise the level of privacy protection if they want government contracts.”

According to the Post, the EFF and EPIC are pointing to “an unnamed federal government agency” that signed a contract with Google earlier this year that “carved out an exemption from the ban so that the agency could use Google’s YouTube video player.”

Why am I not surprised to see Google mentioned in this story?

It might be easy enough to avoid government cookies, at least. Just disable cookie downloads to your browser before visiting any .gov websites. That ought to work – for a while anyway.

In other fishy news, Megyn Kelly of Fox News tries to get a straight answer out of the White House Press Secretary about the White House storing email addresses that come in through its address. Needless to say, a straight answer was not forthcoming.

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One Comment on “Do Not Eat The Cookies!”

  1. bobbygee Says:

    This must a joke to get a straight answer out of the White House. This is about freedom.

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