WASHINGTON – The Barack Obama administration has announced plans to lift a government ban on tracking visitors to government websites, and potentially, collect their personal data through the use of “cookies” – an effort some suspect may already be in place on White House sites.
This screenshot shows computer cookies collected on WhiteHouse.gov and Recovery.gov
A ban on such tracking by the federal government on Internet users has been in place since 2000, however, the White House Office of Management and Budget now wants to lift the ban citing a “compelling need.”
In fact, according to the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, federal agencies have already negotiated agreements and contracts with social networking sites like Google, YouTube, SlideShare, Facebook, AddThis, Blist, Flickr and VIMEO to collect information on visitors for federal web sites. All of these private companies are known to have agreements with federal agencies, but the public has never seen them.
In public comments submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, EPIC notes it has obtained documents that show federal agencies have negotiated these contracts with the private sector in violation of “existing statutory privacy rights.” Those agencies include: Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, and the National Security Agency.
There are suspicions the White House is already involved.
When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was recently asked by Fox News reporter Major Garrett why Americans who had not signed up to receive any e-mails from the White House, were now receiving e-mails from White House adviser David Axelrod promoting President Obama’s health care plan, Gibbs refused to answer the question.
“The Obama administration’s favorite book seems to be ‘1984’ by George Orwell,” said Brad O’Leary, publisher of The O’Leary Report monthly newsletter and author of “Shut Up, America: The End of Free Speech.” “Only they don’t see ‘1984’ as a warning, but rather a blueprint for spying on every American who visits a government website – something that has been banned for nearly a decade.”
According to Obama “technology czar” Vivek Kundra, the “compelling need” driving this major policy reversal is the administration’s desire to create “more open” government and to “enhance citizen participation in government.”
O’Leary finds serious fault with Kundra’s rationale.
“According to the new technology czar, there is a ‘compelling need’ to do this,” said O’Leary. “The only compelling need I can think of is for a failing Obama administration to compile an enemy list of gun owners, pro-lifers, tea-party participants, those opposed to illegal immigration, and anyone opposed to the Obama-Pelosi agenda of government control over Americans’ lives.”
“No matter what the Obama administration says, a ‘cookie’ is a spy device,” said O’Leary. “No matter how inoffensive the administration says their spy devices will be, once you open the door to the federal government spying on every American who visits a government website, it can’t be closed – it can only be expanded.”
According to O’Leary, if the Obama administration is successful in lifting this ban on federal privacy invasion, the lives of many Americans could become open books for bureaucrats.
“What if a harmless trip to the State Department’s travel website or the White House’s health care site, the Census Bureau’s web site results in the Obama administration’s discovery that you are someone who recently visited Cabela’s, Smith and Wesson, or a tea party or pro-life web site?” asked O’Leary. “Is this all mundane information that political animals in government don’t care about? Of course not. You might sooner expect a visit from Obama’s IRS or Homeland Security than a pat on the back for ‘participating’ in government.”
O’Leary says that it is time for Congress to step in and pass legislation to protect the privacy rights of Americans who could fall victim to White House spy cookies.
“Because of the lack of transparency from the Obama White House, we are filing FOIA requests to determine exactly how these agencies are using spy cookies,” said O’Leary.
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