Privacy

Federal Government Wants to Offer the People Tasty Cookies

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The tasty cookies that allow them to track individual visitors to federal government websites, that is. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) doesn't want 'em:

The American Civil Liberties Union submitted comments today [Aug. 10] to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) opposing its recent proposal to reverse current federal policy and allow the use of web tracking technologies, like cookies, on federal government websites. Cookies can be used to track an Internet user's every click and are often linked across multiple websites; they frequently identify particular people.

Since 2000, it has been the policy of the federal government not to use such technology. But the OMB is now seeking to change that policy and is considering the use of cookies for tracking web visitors across multiple sessions and storing their unique preferences and surfing habits. Though this is a major shift in policy, the announcement of this program consists of only a single page from the federal register that contains almost no detail.

"This is a sea change in government privacy policy," said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "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. Until the OMB answers the multitude of questions surrounding this policy shift, we will continue to raise our strenuous objections."…

"Americans rely on the information from the federal government to research politics, medical issues and legal requirements. The OMB is now asking to retain the personal and identifiable information we leave behind," said Christopher Calabrese, Counsel for the ACLU Technology and Liberty Project. "No American should have to sacrifice privacy or risk surveillance in order to access free government information…."

Jacob Sullum blogged last week on whether private companies' computer cookies should be of alarm, deciding "not really."

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30 responses to “Federal Government Wants to Offer the People Tasty Cookies

  1. Just turn off cookies for gub’ment sites. Or use an anonymizer.

  2. Toss your cookies after surfing.

  3. Exactly which cookies are we talking about? I assume we’re talking about third party cookies? Is the government going to lease advertising space on their sites?

    So this is what all of that Google lawsuit (anti-trust) shit was about, huh? The Gov is trying to negotiate a deal with Google Ads.

  4. I don’t really see what the problem is here. It’s not like they can’t collect IP information already. They don’t get to access other sites’ cookies, after all.

  5. Jesus Fucking Christ, I have to read Microgram with a proxy now?

  6. Out of all the nefarious crap the govt can pull on us… writing at text file that stores my preferences whilst using cia factbook or whatever is not really much of a concern…

  7. A cookie is just a place to put information so I don’t think allowing cookies is a problem in and of itself, but announcing the change without an associated policy explaining which specific usages are authorized is asking for problems. It sounds more like laziness than ill intent, but that doesn’t prevent it from being abused.

  8. This is why I use The Pirate Bay’s new anonymity service — as far as Obama knows I’m Swedish, just like Moynihan, and far out of reach of his death panels.

  9. far out of reach of his death panels

    Those “Death Panels” which the DemocRATS and the MSM(including Fox News!) say are an absurd rumor?

    The Senate is taking them out of the bill

  10. Our destiny offers not the cup of despair , but the chalice of opportunity .

  11. Why hasn’t the Anonymity Douche shown up in this thread?

  12. This argument is so 1995–as is every collision of “government” and “technology” (see: U.S. vs. Microsoft). Cookies save preferences, and additionally serve to throw ads at you. Big fucking deal.

  13. And I offer the chance for not just cookies, by keyloggers and rootkits!

  14. Libertarians,

    The last creatures on the planet still suffering from cookie paranoia.

    Good time!

  15. Yes, we’re just paranoid.

    That’s right up there with the kind of thinking that says we really don’t have any rights to privacy anyway, and so if you’re not doing anything wrong, then why should you care if the government infiltrates your life until you burp, fart and breathe bureaucratic vapors.

    More on the technical side, if someone just clears their cookies, cache, etc, how much of a trace is left?

    I’ve already accepted the fact that our current state is further into the Orwellian than we know so I’m actually not worried about it, paranoid or otherwise. But I’ve always wondered if clearing cookies really did any good or not – being the pessimist that I am.

  16. If by “libertarians” you mean the ACLU and all the consumer advocates quoted in the Sullum article linked to last week in which worry about cookies was still being treated as a live, important issue at great length (see the last link in the piece), sure. That whole quoted part is from an ACLU press release.

  17. One need not wonder if any cookies are involved when one gets ratted out on flag@whitehouse.gov

  18. c’mon there’s nothing to worry about. Bush is gone. The good guys are running the show now. They just want to be able to civilly serve you better.

  19. If you don’t delete your cookies, you’re a fascist-enabler.

  20. If you don’t delete your cookies, you’re a fascist-enabler.

    But wouldn’t deleting them make me a racist?

  21. But wouldn’t deleting them make me a racist?

    Only if you do it while Obama’s in the White House.

  22. Let’s face it, Tomcat, libertarians are racist anyway, because that’s the only possible reason to not wholeheartedly support the policies of the current administration.

  23. Fair point. I just wanted to make sure I was being a racist.

    Of course, I got out of bed this morning, so obviously, I’m a racist.

  24. Since 2000, it has been the policy of the federal government not to use such technology.

    Eight years of Bushitler and the government wasn’t tracking which of their websites you visited.

    Seven months of Obama and now Enquiring Minds (in Washington) Want to Know.

    Hmmm.

  25. Wow, cookie paranoia? Really? That seems so 1997.

  26. Does customizing your experience on government websites threaten equality before the law or something?

    Uncle Sam says, “I want YOU to check your privacy settings.”

  27. Browsers that don’t accept cookies will be labeled as suspicious and will justify NSA surveillance. Otherwise, cookies are no big deal.

  28. Cookies are mostly much ado about nothing. However I’m not keen on getting unsolicited emails, especially when I’m forced to help pay for my own inconvenience.

  29. Our destiny offers not the cup of despair , but the chalice of opportunity.

    Close. Under Obama/Emanuel, that should be “Our destiny offers not the cup of despair , but the phallus of opportunity.”

  30. Why, exactly, does the government want to track your use of its websites, again? I can think of some nefarious reasons, but no benign ones. A little help, here?

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