EFF questions White House website's privacy policy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a U.S nonprofit legal organization, has sent a letter to White House Counsel demanding the reason for exempting third party cookies from WhiteHouse.gov's privacy policy.

The White House website's privacy policy promises that the site will not use long-term tracking cookies, which will otherwise allow federal agencies to track users visiting the site. However the embedded YouTube videos in the site use persistent cookies to track the browsing habits of visitors. The privacy policy was modified to exempt YouTube cookies when this was pointed out by Chris Soghoian, a cnet blogger.

This YouTube waiver created negative criticism from many bloggers and the White House responded to this criticism quickly by replacing the YouTube video with an video player image, so that the user loads the real YouTube player only after clicking the image.

This does not address the issue completely as YouTube can still track user information after the user clicks the play button.

The White House web site's privacy policy was also modified from (changes highlighted by an underline).

For videos that are visible on WhiteHouse.gov, a 'persistent cookie' is set by third party providers when you click to play the video. This persistent cookie is used by YouTube to help maintain the integrity of video statistics. A waiver has been issued by the White House Counsel's office to allow for the use of this persistent cookie.

To

For videos that are visible on WhiteHouse.gov, a 'persistent cookie' is set by third party providers when you click to play a video. This persistent cookie is used by some third party providers to help maintain the integrity of video statistics. A waiver has been issued by the White House Counsel's office to allow for the use of this persistent cookie.

Besides demanding an explanation from White House Counsel for the waiver to allow third party cookies in the White House web site, EFF has given suggestions to protect the privacy of users visiting the site and pointed out the other ways WhiteHouse.gov is leaking private data to third parties.

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8 Comments

Admirable cause imo, but otherwise wrongly directed. YouTube uses cookies anyways -- I like the privacy cause, but yes, they have better things to do.

In exaggeration, a million things could go wrong if the government hoards cookies, but what reason do they have? If they were doing that, wouldn't THEY have better things to do? Like, managing the war? I don't wanna paint 'em as the good guy, but again this lacks a point.

The change was probably to reflect if they decided to put content on another site, so it wouldn't require them to update the privacy policy each time. The EFF does some good things, and then some really dumb things.

They should go a step further and add a "You are leaving the Whitehouse.gov site, we are not responsible for content past this point. Press OK to accept, or Cancel to remain on Whitehouse.gov". That should cover their asses sufficiently.

TCLN Ryster said,
They should go a step further and add a "You are leaving the Whitehouse.gov site, we are not responsible for content past this point. Press OK to accept, or Cancel to remain on Whitehouse.gov". That should cover their asses sufficiently.

Yeah, we have that on all our state sites for Pennsylvania if you go out of *.state.pa.us it gives a message like that

honestly? Why isn't the EFF doing something useful instead of wasting their time, like perhaps, going after the people that actually abuse cookies for spyware etc.

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