Back when he was campaigning for president, Barack Obama's skillful use of Web 2.0 technologies such as Facebook and YouTube enabled him to get his message out to new audiences of voters in an unprecedented fashion. But using the same technologies in his new role as president is already proving to be more controversial.
Not even 10 days into Obama's presidency, some privacy advocates are expressing concern about a White House decision permitting the use of persistent Internet cookies in YouTube video files embedded on the redesigned WhiteHouse.gov Web site. Letting third-party cookies be placed on the site is a deviation from established executive-branch policy that leaves site visitors open to being tracked and profiled without their knowledge, the privacy advocates claim.
Cookies are small pieces of code that are installed on browsers by Web sites in order to help the sites recognize the computers of users they next time they visit. Data such as the IP addresses of users, the Web sites they're coming from and how long they stayed on a particular site can be stored by cookies. Online advertisers and Web site operators often use such information to build behavioral profiles for delivering targeted advertising and content to users.
In the letter that the EFF sent to Craig, Cindy Cohn, the Washington-based group's legal director, welcomed the White House's quick response in making the fix but said that the waiver continues to raise questions about privacy.