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Rethinking Federal Privacy Policies

2009-FederalCookies.pdf
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ITIF just released a report (download PDF) that looks at the history of the federal government policy on “cookies”—small data files stored on a user’s computer. We specifically look at the strict limitations put on the use of persistent cookies and how this has affected the development of government websites. The report surveys the 10 most popular government and non-government websites and their privacy policies. We also look at the growing importance of non-government websites to access government data, such as OpenSecrets.org used to access campaign finance data, rather than the government website FEC.gov. In the report, we call for a much more flexible privacy framework for government websites, one that allows the use cookies (and other similar technology like flash cookies and DOM storage objects). The goal should be to protect privacy, but not at the expense of other equally importantant goals for e-government like usability, transparency and accessibility.

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