Happy New Year (Without a Cookie)
- White House Crumbles a Cookie
White House denies security specialist's claim that its web site
issues cookies in possible violation of government policy.
December 30, 2005
The White House on Friday denied published reports that it uses small
programs, called cookies, to track the movement of visitors on the
White House web site.
Web software security specialist Richard M. Smith and the Associated
Press reported that the White House web site, through a web analytics
contractor called WebTrends, was using cookies that were specifically
banned by a two-year-old directive issued from the Office of
Management and Budget.
David Almacy, the White House Internet director, denied that the
White House web site is issuing cookies to any visitors to its Web
site, but confirmed the site does keep track of what pages are viewed
and for how long with the help of WebTrends. He blamed Mr. Smith's
software, called a packet sniffer, for the confusion.
"What was happening was that users that visited other WebTrends sites
picked up WebTrend cookies from these other sites," said Mr.
Almacy. "Mr. Smith's packet sniffer program then assumes that because
we use WebTrends our site placed the cookies on his hard drive."
Mr. Smith dismissed the White House responses as "very predictable"
and called it a "do not inhale excuse." He noted that such third-
party cookies still allow tracking across multiple sites.
Associated Press writer Anick Jesdanun wrote that while the White
House doesn't issue cookies, it employs a tiny graphic image called
a "web bug" sent by WebTrends that allows the company to know when a
specific page is viewed on the White House site.
"The only information we track is what pages are being viewed and we
count site visits and the length of time each visitor spends on our
site," said Mr. Almacy. "We don't track any personal information
about the user."
Mr. Smith and the AP reported earlier this week that the National
Security Agency's web site was issuing cookies to web visitors (see
NSA Caught Serving Cookies). The NSA said that the cookies were being
distributed unbeknownst to the NSA staff because of a recent software
upgrade. The agency said it had taken care of the problem.
Cookies are small files placed on computers by web programs residing
on sites visited by those computers. They were originally designed to
hold identifying information to make web surfing easier and faster.
Today cookies are used to store all kinds of information, including
the content of a web surfer's electronic shopping cart. Many web
surfers are concerned about the lack of privacy involved in the
surreptitious placement of cookies on their computer hard drives.
They are helpful, for the most part, but they carry the potential for
abuse because they can monitor and document the activities of web
"No information is gleaned from cookies on a user's computer on our
web site," said Mr. Almacy.
"We are not allowed to use some of the advanced web technology
available to others because of the privacy concerns that we are
- Happy New Year all! BTW I got a Christmas Eve treat
this year.. I was leaving a restaurant and found
myself standing next to one of my favorite historians,
H.W. Brand. I shook his hand and told him how much I
enjoyed his work.. he was very down to earth and a
And Happy New Year to you folks at the White House if
you are monitoring this message.
--- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:
> Happy New Year Gregory and other members! I'm happyhttp://us.click.yahoo.com/.6dcNC/.VHMAA/Zx0JAA/CvmplB/TM
> without a cookie!
> ------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
> Know an art & music fan? Make a donation in their
> honor this holiday season!
> Yahoo! Groups Links