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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 bsharp8256 ( 1372285 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:29PM (#26565139)
    Considering how many Youtube videos are embedded on webpages other than the youtube.com domain, the tracking potential of this is unsettling. Disclaimer: I did not RTFA.
  • So... WTF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:35PM (#26565235) Journal
    What makes YouTube so extra special?

    What is so interesting about my online video viewing habits that the Ideological State Apparatus feels it is worthwhile to let them track it?

    And if I delete cookies? Then what use is it?

    we can (rightfully) whinge about the Republican Fascist Death Machine, but this is the kind of idiotic actions re: ISA's that the Democratic Party is stuck to as if with glue at its wrists and ankles.


  • by tixxit ( 1107127 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:36PM (#26565263)
    The article is referring to whitehouse.gov's privacy policy. The only web site this affects is whitehouse.gov and the only users are the visitors to whitehouse.gov.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grantek ( 979387 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:46PM (#26565433)

    One thing I didn't see in that paragraph is the fact that you can track a laptop geographically, ie. a user has been visiting the White House page from Iraq and is now showing up from an IP in the US.

  • by Tanktalus ( 794810 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:00PM (#26565643) Journal

    To me, it kinda works both ways. On one hand, you don't want to be dependant on YouTube. On the other hand, you don't want the government to be able to replace a video with another and claim that it always was this way. "We never said that... see our video?" When it's self-hosted, it's too easy to change. When it's YouTube-hosted, it's easy for YouTube to prove the change (and they may still have the old version, who knows). This is good for government transparency.

    I would agree that there needs to be a public discussion about pros and cons, but thus far it doesn't seem cut and dried that YouTube hosting government videos is entirely a bad thing. Or entirely a good thing, either.

    -- not an Obama supporter.

  • Re:So um (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:02PM (#26565679)

    Yes -- it seems that YouTube is the only one granted this exception because they're the only third-party embedded content.

    Incidentally, I was actually somewhat surprised when I went to whitehouse.gov to discover that it didn't use any third-party JavaScript and worked just fine with JavaScript disabled.

  • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:04PM (#26565717) Homepage

    It's been two days and we're still in Iraq and the economy is still in the toilet AND NOW THIS?!!?

    So, who wants Bush back?

    Thought so.

  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @05:26PM (#26566023)

    My initial reaction was the same. But then it dawns on me that the new Administration is using YouTube like any other agent of the Press. Do we demand that the US Goverment set up its own TV stations and newspapers? No. The President announces a press conference and lets the media do their own thing. Occasionally, he does an interview with a specific host of a specific show to convey some particular message. YouTube is simply a recent take on a very old idea.

  • Re:So um (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy.gmail@com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:00PM (#26566511) Journal

    The government has strict rules about the content they put up; it has to be 100% accessible to people with disabilities, and javascript causes a lot of problems with that.

    On the one hand, this is obviously a no-brainer, because the gov't should be accessible to everyone. On the other hand, it means that developing websites is so expensive that they don't do it often, so even agencies that might be inclined to put things online don't do it because of the hassle.

  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @07:01PM (#26567489) Journal

    ideally: the post the videos in an ogg container, encode it with open standard codecs, and make the full content avilable on bittorrent (also an open standard with open source implementations)

    Congratulations, you just made the content inaccessible to about 80% of your target market. All of the technologies you list require extra software installed to be able to use. Now while you may think nothing of installing ogg player, bittorrent and everything else for the majority of the population that is just too complicated.

    I have to spend one day per week on frontline telephone support of people doing basic PC training (ECDL & ICDL). Most of these cretins cant even send an email saying what there problem is. You try telling em to grab a screent shot using ALT-PrintScreen and they still can then work out how to paste it into a word document.

    Asking most people to install several pieces of software and a codec pack is just too much work. You also need to remember that government employees are not allowed to have BitTorrent software installed on their work PC's and they might want to look at whitehouse site for work reasons.

    The fact is that to get the largest market utube is king in terms of infrastructure and accessibility. You go to the site and the videos just play, simple.

  • by anaesthetica ( 596507 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @07:02PM (#26567505) Homepage Journal

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

    FTFA: "In just the past couple weeks, YouTube has launched dedicated pages for both the House and Senate to show off their own videos, and the site also recently started allowing users to directly download copies of some videos. This latter feature has not yet been widely deployed across the site, and is seems to be limited to videos posted by Obama's team."

    So there may in fact be some push from the White House to modify YouTube's policies. We'll see.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik