A recent article published by CNET's Chris Soghoian regarding YouTube being issued a waiver from third-party cookies has me concerned.
Google, the parent company of YouTube, has the right to track and trend visitors to their sites and how they interact with the content as long as they comply with their own privacy policies posted on their sites. Long term tracking cookies continue to track your Internet behavior and browsing habits, even after you surf away from the site that placed the cookie on your system. As you can imagine, I am gravely concerned in the way the Executive Branch of our government has decided to write Google a blank check because they've decided to use the service to host material for them - the videos will be embedded in government-owned domains. The technology of these cookies is such that you don't even have to play the video. They will automatically register in your browser without any user interaction whatsoever.
If the new administration chooses to embrace social media and Web 2.0, they should have their own infrastructure in place to handle this. There exists a Federal statute from The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) - rule M-03-22 states that:
Furthermore, technologies that are permissible according to M-03-22 are: single session cookies (cookies that expire when you surf away), and customization technology (used to customize a website at the visitor's request).
So, basically, tracking information can be used if it's for customization of the site per the visitor's request or if it's for tracking purposes on a single session only. Long-term tracking cookies are expressly prohibited from being used unless there is "compelling need".
I wonder how the White House is considering this to be a compelling need? It is against Federal law for our government to track information on it's citizens' which have been suspected of no crime (probable cause statute applies to Federal law enforcement agencies, too). I am also curious to know if this applies to just YouTube or to Google as a whole. If this exemption applies to the entire organization, this could possibly have farther reaching ramifications than originally thought.
While I praise the President for his dynamic use of Internet technologies, namely social networking, I would be remiss in my journalistic duties if I didn't report the other side as well. I would hope that a presidential spokesperson could comment to the citizens' of our great country on this issue and explain why Google is so special.
Until then, I urge you to take the necessary steps (you should already be taking) to secure your anonymity while surfing online.
Internet Explorer: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/cookies.htm
As always, I appreciate your comments and questions.
UPDATE #1: Food for thought when posting your comments: How do you think this plays into the 'Net Neutrality" argument?
UPDATE #2: I have posted the following screenshots taken after visiting WhiteHouse.gov to corroborate the information in Chris Soghoian's article: