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White House Exempts YouTube From Web Privacy Rules 235

An anonymous reader writes "The new White House website privacy policy promises that the site will not use long-term tracking cookies, complying with a decade old rule prohibiting such user tracking by federal agencies. However, Obama's legal team has quietly exempted YouTube from this rule. Visitors to the official White House blog will receive long-term tracking cookies whenever they surf to a web-page with an embedded YouTube video — even those users that do not click the "play" button. As CNET reports, no other company has been singled out and rewarded with such a waiver."
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White House Exempts YouTube From Web Privacy Rules

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  • by DotNM ( 737979 ) < minus author> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:29PM (#26565143) Homepage
    ... unless they legislate them to remove those cookies. What alternatives to YouTube could they use?
  • Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:31PM (#26565165) Homepage

    A cookie to the domain? Who cares.

    What exactly are we losing by having this? If you're loading anything from youtube, then youtube could certainly log that fact permanently on their end.

    Why is this news?

  • The U.S. government should have its own video servers, or lease them from YouTube, and not depend on commercial sites. Commercial sites can do anything they want any time they want; they don't have to consider internal government policy.
  • OH NOES! PANIC! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:34PM (#26565221) Journal


    Obama is evil because his staff allowed You Tube to set a cookie. There's a conspiracy. They've gotten to him, he's in the bag for them. I bet he got use of the orbital mind control lasers in exchange for this.

    Jesus christ, what the fuck? YouTube gets to set a cookie on the page. Is that really a huge deal? Now they know you watched the Inauguration video from the White House website! Oh noes!

  • by Rinisari ( 521266 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:37PM (#26565293) Homepage Journal

    They could host the videos themselves, use another site that doesn't use cookies, or use an alternative version of YouTube's creation that would not use cookies.

    There are lots of options, this is simply the easiest.

  • So um (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:45PM (#26565411) Journal

    A third party host - YouTube - is allowed to keep tracking cookies. The federal regulation on tracking cookies applies only to federal websites, so that's not really a problem.

    People seem suspicious that only YouTube was granted this exemption, but... are there any other third-party hosts that have things embedded in the website? If not, I still don't understand the problem here. YouTube is doing the tracking, not the feds. If the concern is over the ability of the feds to get that tracking data, then there are so many other ways they could do that it's not even worth getting butthurt over.

    Sounds like this guy is just picking a nit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:55PM (#26565559)

    The government aren't tracking you. (Well, probably they are, but this isn't it).

    The entirety of this story is: has embedded YouTube videos. has no control over what cookies YouTube sets. Therefore, can either not embed YouTube videos or exempt YouTube from the cookie-ban.

    Did you ever go to a blog with a YouTube video? Then you got "tracked" in the exact same way as you will on By YouTube, not the government.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:56PM (#26565585)

    the reason it's an issue is federal agencies will be posting videos to youtube. Just because they get someone else to do something doesn't mean they're not still responsible for the rules governing it.

  • Re:OH NOES! PANIC! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:00PM (#26565649)

    Listen, the story isn't that websites can set cookies. Everyone knows this is the case.

    The story is that YouTube was specifically exempted from the requirements.

    So the question becomes "Why would you make a specific exemption for one provider and not for an entire class of providers?"

  • use another site that doesn't use cookies

    You're so funny! Can I have some of what you're smoking?
  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:10PM (#26565799) Homepage

    The way government is run, it'll cost a minimum of $500,000 a year to run it's own.

    Or... $0 a year.

  • I get it! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hordeking ( 1237940 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:12PM (#26565825)
    I understand what's going on. The White House isn't allowed to track users, and Google is. So the White House is going to let Google track the users. Then when the POTUS wants to find out who's been at the site, he'll issue some kind of EO to google to release that information in the name of "National Security".

    Insidious. Clever!

    Of course, now that I've figured this out, I'll be expecting a visit from some droll men in suits and sunglasses. I better have some tea ready for them.
  • by Anonymusing ( 1450747 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:14PM (#26565855)

    They could host the videos themselves

    But why invest in all that bandwidth and hosting when there's a free, available, willing, and WILDLY POPULAR alternative already here? C'mon. If they hosted it themselves, they would RFP it out to the lowest bidder, futz around with technology issues for awhile (does the BBC iPlayer [] ring a bell?), before finally delivering a subpar product that frustrates everyone. I would MUCH rather they used YouTube for their videos, and spent their time and money on things that matter.

  • by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:15PM (#26565865)

    They could host the videos themselves, use another site that doesn't use cookies, or use an alternative version of YouTube's creation that would not use cookies.
    There are lots of options, this is simply the easiest.

    Well, it would cost money for them to replicate YouTube just for government stuff. It's much easier just to use the "free" YouTube service for that. Now if the free service has tracking cookies, well either you decide it wasn't that big of a deal in the first place or stop posting videos. Since everyone seems to really like the videos, and most folks ignore or delete cookies that they don't like; they've decided to live with it.

    That's like complaining that google, slashdot, or wikipedia gave you cookies. I mean come on if you use the internet, you'll get cooties, um cookies.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supernova_hq ( 1014429 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:18PM (#26565915)
    Quick, everyone connect to Iraqi proxy servers for a week, then go back to your regular domain.
  • Re:The only reason (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:28PM (#26566049) Homepage

    umm....sure... Google lobbied Obama so that he would get his White House staff to allow cookies on Youtube videos. That's a big win for Google. lol.

  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:40PM (#26566235) Homepage Journal

    Folks still need vent about the election and politics in general; we may as well get it over with now.

  • Re:Quitely? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by truckaxle ( 883149 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:45PM (#26566301) Homepage

    Slashdot sensationalistic reporting frequently uses "quietly" to give a sense of wrong doing or subversive action.

    I suppose it strokes the ego of the reporter as it they feel they are uncovering some dirty laundry when typically the event or action wasn't quiet or just wasn't important enough to warrant a press conference. In this case both apply.

  • by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:52PM (#26566395)

    Why not cut a deal with google, pay them x per view to disable cookies OR better yet, NOT embed external videos in a proprietary format, when they can host such videos locally and avoid both privacy AND security issues (one 'mistake' at google could rickroll anybody on OR a worse one could launch a flash exploit, a change in political winds could also end up with google suggesting anti-obama videos on his own site (like adwords attached to emails)). Somebody from the NSA should have a quick word with the new webdevs.

  • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:11PM (#26566655)


    Why anyone would expect Youtube to suddenly stop using cookies makes no sense to me. They are a private company and follow their OWN market-based rules, not Obama's. He's not a dictator.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:15PM (#26566735)

    There is a lot of value in having the government provide the repository for official documents.

    Just imagine the complications if the administration takes a position (or wants to post the video of a speech) critical of the company providing hosting services (for free, without a solid contract outlining their obligations).

  • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:21PM (#26566847)

    >>>So why do they need a special exemption?

    They don't. The slashdot summary is incorrect. As you stated, the video is not formally part of, but an external link to and therefore the rules of apply. It's perfectly logical.


  • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:31PM (#26567021)

    >>>Disturbingly, this administration is not pushing YouTube to modify their policies for the White House channel

    Right now I think the U.S. government and Obama have more important things to worry about than whether or not there's a cookie on my c: drive. Even if demanded Not install cookies, what's the point? It won't change the fact that I *already* have youtube cookies on my machine.


    I was looking at with the Wayback machine. Back during Clinton's time, there was virtually nothing there. I was surprised because I thought Clinton would have used the net more effectively than just posting a photo of himself, but it was not until Bush took over that the site became a useful portal for information.

  • by beej ( 82035 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:31PM (#26567029) Homepage Journal

    Technically speaking, no Federal agency is using persistent tracking cookies. However, the rule can be broadly interpreted that "no Federal agency's web site may SET such a cookie,"

    Now we get more to the guts of it. Which federal agency's web site is setting such a cookie?

    We have to get into some subtle definitions of "web site" and "setting" and "is".

    It probably works something like this:

    1) Your browser gets the html from wh.g

    2) Your browser downloads the flash video player from youtube

    3) Your flash player does cookie stuff with youtube

    So really it's only a suggestion from wh.g that you even download the player.

    We need to keep the People empowered to use or not use their software.

    you browse to a Federal Government website and you get a persistent tracking cookie, which can certainly look like a violation.

    I agree it can look like it (dangerously), but I still don't think it is.

    I think it's really important to distinguish between wh.g setting a cookie for tracking purposes, and wh.g embedding on their web page a 3rd party video player that communicates video and tracking cookies with a 3rd party site. One is wh.g, and the other is a 3rd party which is only involved because wh.g mentioned their url.

    At no point is the tracking cookie available to wh.g. Wh.g doesn't even know if the user downloaded the video player or not.

    Should wh.g be allowed to link to other sites that use cookies? Of course, we say! What good is the Web without linking? But what if the next version of firefox has a feature that loads little thumbnail iframes of links before they've been clicked on and the browser sets those cookies? Now suddenly wh.g shouldn't be able to link to other sites because cookies will be automatically set... just because the browser changed?

    It's a mistake to regulate at this layer. wh.g can't use cookies for tracking: good. wh.g can't embed youtube videos because youtube uses tracking: bad!

  • by Garganus ( 890454 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:37PM (#26567111)
    Huh... the way you phrase it, it doesn't sound news-worthy.
  • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <me AT brandywinehundred DOT org> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:40PM (#26567177) Journal

    No, what I would expect is to not use youtube, instead of re-writing policy to allow Google to better track visitors to the site.

  • by LunarCrisis ( 966179 ) on Friday January 23, 2009 @01:04AM (#26570713)

    Well, that's probably why his version didn't make the summary.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky