A proposal to loosen restrictions on the use of tracking cookies by federal government websites should be carefully scrutinized so they don’t jeopardize the privacy of people who visit them, groups advocating civil liberties warned Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the proposal (http://blog.ostp.gov/2009/07/24/cookiepolicy/), floated July 24 by the White House OMB, or Office of Management and Budget, was a “sea change” that could erode protections that for the past nine years have safeguarded the personal information of millions of people who visit federal websites.
“Without explaining this reversal of policy, the OMB is seeking to allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website,” Michael Macleod-Ball, the acting director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, said in a statement. “Until the OMB answers the multitude of questions surrounding this policy shift, we will continue to raise our strenuous objections.”
Under current rules, federal agencies are prohibited from using cookies and similar tracking technologies unless there is a “compelling need” and the agency head has approved their use. Under the new rules, the OMB would adopt a three-tier approach that would permit tracking under different circumstances. They include:
- Single-session technologies, which track users over a single session and do not maintain tracking data over multiple sessions or visits;
- Multi-session technologies for use in analytics, which track users over multiple sessions purely to gather data to analyze web traffic statistics; and
- Multi-session technologies for use as persistent identifiers, which track users over multiple visits with the intent of remembering data, settings, or preferences unique to that visitor for purposes beyond what is needed for web analytics.
“The goal of this review is to develop a new policy that allows the Federal Government to continue to protect the privacy of people who visit Federal websites while, at the same time, making these websites more user-friendly, providing better customer service, and allowing for enhanced web analytics,” federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Michael Fitzpatrick, associate administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote.
Riiight, it’s just a means to an end to “serve” you better. Somehow I am somewhat incredulous about this little paradigm shift on the Feds part. Add this to DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) that they would like carried out more often (please remember those NARUS STA 6400’s in those closets at ATT and other networks) and you have quite the hoover capabilities to see not only what, but where the average user is going using those cookies.
All the better to serve you!
Given that Big O’ doesn’t want to shed light on those little projects that the last admin set up with regards to all the surveillance, I see this only as a furthering of it…
The only security one has is that which they make themselves…
Hey, I have an idea.. How about all you Fed guys look into not publishing data that should not be available on those servers so people don’t Gooogle it? Hmm? Might be a good idea yeah?