OMB: Stop collecting cookies

OMB: Stop collecting cookies

Agencies must immediately review their Web site privacy policies, the Office of Management and Budget ordered this month.

The memorandum to agency chiefs followed reports that the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy was using Web cookies to collect data about visitors to its site. The White House has ordered the office to stop using cookies.

Cookies are small data packages that sites put on a user's PC. They can be used to store information such as a password to a Web site, but they can also be used to gather information about users and to track how users move through a site.

In the June 22 memo, OMB director Jacob J. Lew said in most cases agencies should not use cookies. He said agencies would have to demonstrate a 'compelling need' to gather such data and would have to publicly disclose how any personal information collected would be safeguarded.

'If an agency Web site states that the information provided will not be available to any other entities, it is the responsibility of the agency to assure that no such sharing takes place,' Lew said.

Furthermore, use of cookies by an agency would require the approval of that agency's chief.

'Christopher J. Dorobek, Susan M. Menke and Tony Lee Orr

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