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White House Removes Cookies Ban

Internet connectionWhite House officials announced the proposed end of a 10-year ban on persistent Internet cookies after consulting with public groups and privacy advocates.

According to the Federal Register notice on the topic, “The goal of this review is for the federal government to continue to protect the privacy of people who visit federal government websites while at the same time making these websites  more user-friendly, providing better customer service, and allowing for enhanced web analytics.”

The ban will put a limit on the collection of personally identifiable information that can be obtained through cookies, which are files obtained when a user visits a web page. The policy will require nongovernment websites to gain the user’s consent before tracking their activity on the site.

The Web Measurement and Customization initiative is part of the Open Government, Privacy and Regulation plan, and the Office of Management and Budget officials plan to release new guidance documents in the near future to achieve the goals of both privacy and transparency for members of the public to engage safely with the government.

Along with the cookie ban, OMB also addresses the federal agency uses of Web 2.0 applications. The new revisions touch upon the importance of agencies’ usage of social-networking sites, such as Facebook or YouTube, in the government’s attempt to achieve participation and transparency, and instill a set of guidelines for the federal use of these sites.

According to the released Open Government plan, “OMB is in the process of drafting guidance for federal agencies to protect both openness and privacy, and to address ambiguities in OMB’s existing guidance that may be discouraging agencies from adopting third-party technologies, such as ‘social media’ websites and ‘Web 2.0’ applications.”

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