Although the steps taken by the White House webmasters don’t go far enough, they are steps in the right direction. Here’s what happened:
Federal regulations specifically say that “agencies are prohibited from using persistent cookies or any other means (e.g., web beacons) to track visitors’ activity” unless there is a “compelling need.”
Cookies are bits of code placed on a browser when a website is visted. They are used for authenticating, session tracking (state maintenance), and maintaining specific information about users.
The White House apparently took notice of privacy concerns and acted. That’s a good thing, but in fact there is no “compelling reason” to allow Google to gather information about visitors to the White House website and to monitor WhiteHouse.gov visitors’ video choices, thus amassing more data for Google’s business purposes. In addition, the fact that Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt is a major Obama supporter creates the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The White House needs to rescind the waiver for You Tube immediately and halt this intrusive practice. There are a myriad of ways to display video on a website without setting persistent cookies.