Sunday, August 02, 2009

The government website for the "Cash for Clunkers" program,, has had a number of problems with its back-end functionality and front-end public rhetoric since its launch mere weeks ago. First it suffered from periodic system crashes, and now it has become a focus in right-wing conspiracy theories about government surveillance.

What's interesting about the anxieties about malware and cookies expressed on Glenn Beck's show on Fox is that the host credits his crowd sourcing techniques among his viewership as the source of this story about the fine print in user agreements. In this case the verbiage in the legalese was particularly baroque.

"This application provides access to the DOT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a federal computer system and is property of the United States government... users have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy."

"Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected and disclosed to authorized CARS, DOT and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign."

"By using this system, the user consents to such interception, monitoring, recording, copying, auditing, inspection, and disclosure at the discretion CARS or the DOT personnel."

Yet again the Obama administration shows that it responds to criticism of its websites in the blogosphere, whether it comes from the left or right. Just as they responded to criticism from Chris Soghoian's Surveillance State within hours, Beck has announced that the language is being revised by the Department of Transportation.

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