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White House website cuts tie to Google’s YouTube

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Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 4:06 pm

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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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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 349 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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