The Obama administration is proposing to scale back a long-standing ban on tracking how people use government Internet sites with “cookies” and other technologies, raising alarms among privacy groups.
A two-week public comment period ended Monday on a proposal by the White House Office of Management and Budget to end a ban on federal Internet sites using such technologies and replace it with other privacy safeguards. The current prohibition, in place since 2000, can be waived if an agency head cites a “compelling need.”
Two prominent technology policy advocacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation, cited the terms of a Feb. 19 contract with Google, in which a unnamed federal agency explicitly carved out an exemption from the ban so that the agency could use Google’s YouTube video player.
The terms of the contract, negotiated through the General Services Administration, “expressly waives those rules or guidelines as they may apply to Google.” The contract was obtained by EPIC through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Our primary concern is that the GSA has failed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. citizens,” EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said. “The expectation is they should be complying with the government regulations, not that the government should change its regulations to accommodate these companies.”
Read more in The Washington Post.