Sunday, August 02, 2009

When Will the Cookie Crumble?

Internet cookies on White House websites have been controversial in the past, since they violate previous precedents, but you wouldn't know it from an innocuously titled blog posting called "Cookies Anyone? The http kind, that is."

Nine years ago -- a lifetime in Internet time -- the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a policy commonly referred to as "the cookies policy. " This policy prohibited federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, unless the agency head provided a waiver. This may sound like arcane, boring policy – but it is really important in the online world.
As Executive Sponsor of the Federal Web Managers Council and Director of, I know the importance of this policy issue in serving the public. The "cookie policy" has been the topic of frequent discussion among federal web managers over the years as we strive to provide the best customer service online while protecting individual privacy. We want to use cookies for good, not evil. As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to create a more open and innovative government, OMB wants public input to determine how to best update the cookie policy to meet these goals.
The debate in the comments on the Office of Science & Technology Policy Blog is interesting, because a number of those holding forth identify themselves as federal web developers who express frustration with the conventions that govern public domains that seem to interfere with collecting meaningful data sets about their web traffic patterns.

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