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  (Source: Puppet Government)
Government could reap a wealth of information from its citizens

Every day millions across the country navigate to government webpages, to read pertinent information. Since 2000 that access has been safeguarded, thanks to a prohibition on government websites using cookies or other tracking technology to track users.  Agency exceptions could only be granted under cases of "compelling need".

Now the Obama administration is looking to overturn that prohibition and potentially begin harvesting a wealth of data on its citizen's activities.  Under the plan, the prohibition would be replaced with a set of privacy provisions.  Aides say that it would increase government transparency and "increase public involvement".

The measure, though, has many opponents.  The American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Michael Macleod-Ball commented that the measure would "allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website."

Other opponents dislike that the government may be looking to revoke the protections at the request of search-engine giant Google and other parties.  The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation, both of which oppose the measure, pointed to a February 19 contract with Google and an unnamed federal agency over an exemption to use the YouTube player.

EPIC retrieved the proposed changes, negotiated by the General Services Administration, through a Freedom of Information Act request and says they "expressly waive those rules or guidelines as they may apply to Google."  States EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg, "Our primary concern is that the GSA has failed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. citizens.  The expectation is they should be complying with the government regulations, not that the government should change its regulations to accommodate these companies."

Currently, government content is banned from having tracking cookies, but third-party content, such as YouTube videos on federal websites may have tracking cookies.  Google spokeswoman Christine Chen declined to discuss the new rules, but thanked the government for its use of YouTube, stating, "[The use of YouTube] is just one example of how government and citizens communicate more effectively online, and we are proud of having worked closely with the White House to provide privacy protections for users."





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