While it may seem strange for the federal government to start tracking users online as it ramps up its investigation into private companies usage of behavioral targeting, it is important that the two issues be kept separate.
The administration is not asking for special priviledges but simply bringing its websites in line with common online practices. And that is a good thing.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy
While it may be a shift, it will also allow government webmasters to impement commonly used practices online, like individualized web account logins.
“Artificially restricting cookies on federal Web sites needlessly
hamstrings federal Web sites. When the policy was instituted it
threatened to set a precedent for broader regulation of cookie use on
the Web. Hopefully, the debate about whether to regulate cookies is
over, but further ‘Net nannying is a constant offering of the federal
It would be paradoxical for the U.S. government to relax restrictions on its own online tracking habits while it is investigating private companies for doing the same thing. But that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, these changes would take the handicap off of government sites that was self-imposed over a decade ago. And for Congress to come to any sort of informed decision about online advertising, they need to be able to draw a distinction between privacy violating behaviors and things that make the web more useful for its users.