White House website cuts tie to Google’s YouTube

Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    In the face of criticism from privacy advocates, the White House website apparently has ended its ties to Google’s YouTube video service.

    As revealed today by CNET blogger Chris Soghoian, the site now uses a "Flash-based video solution using Akamai’s content delivery network." No cookies are set on a user’s computer.  Cookies are small bits of code sent to a browser that allow the user to be tracked.

    Saturday’s White House video page also provides a link to download the video and another link that takes the user to Vimeo’s video hosting service and warns that you’re leaving the White House site.

    And if you’re really feeling geeky, you can embed the video on your own website using code that’s now posted with the video on the White House site.

    Apparently the White House is maintaining a channel on Google’s popular YouTube and posts videos there.  The link to Vimeo is a good idea, reminding people that there are options to Google’s service.  On either site you get cookies.

    Previously the White House website used embedded videos hosted by YouTube. When a visitor clicked on the video, YouTube set a "persistent cookie" on the user’s computer enabling the tracking of activities on the net.

    The use of "persistent cookies" violates federal regulations. When the site first launched, it’s privacy policy explicitly said YouTube had been granted a waiver. It was also the case that YouTube set a cookie when you just visited the page without even clicking on the embedded video.

    The site was modified so the cookie was set only when the video was launched, but the privacy policy was scrubbed clean of specific references to Google’s YouTube and and mentioned instead "third party" users.

    The most recent solution video respects users privacy, gives them useful options and appears to keep Internet giant Google at arm’s length.

    Given company’s clout and ubiquity online, that’s an excellent policy.

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