Obama's CIO Hopes to Unjar Web Cookies
By Cecelia Kang in our political blog, 44:
These days, surfing Amazon.com can feel like visiting the corner pharmacist who remembers all your past ailments. The online retailer recalls that you recently bought "Harry Potter," so suggests you read "Twilight." It reminds you of the other J.K. Rowling books you left in your shopping cart -- and then tries to sell you wizard Halloween costumes.
By using a technology called cookies, which track where Internet users travel over the Web, sites like Amazon.com are able to draw a portrait of a customer and sell products based on that data. Now, the Obama administration is thinking about using the same technology to track visitors to Federal agency Web sites.
Are you a frequent visitor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Most Wanted List? The FBI may soon know. If you've recently looked up the latest on the swine flu outbreak and how to treat symptoms with antiviral drugs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have that information from cookies left on your browser from visiting their Web site.
The practice using cookies, which has been controversial because of concerns over user privacy, is being revisited by the nation's Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, as part of the administration's push to revise the Web and technology policies of federal agencies and make government more transparent. Internet cookies are currently prohibited on federal agency Web sites unless approved by the head of an agency because of a "compelling need," Kundra wrote in a blog post last Friday.
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