Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube’s White House Clips: Now 100 Percent Snoop-Free

the_conversationPresident Barack Obama gets pretty high marks from the tech set for his embrace of all things Webby. Except when they’re giving him grief: After overhauling the official White House Web site to make it, you know, interactive and stuff, the administration caught flak from privacy advocates because of the way Google’s YouTube used tracking cookies on the site.

But after making an initial concession earlier this year, Google (GOOG) and the White House are going further. The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains: “Ordinarily, YouTube maintains a record of every YouTube video you’ve ever viewed, associated with your YouTube account, through use of the YouTube cookie. Now, they’ve agreed to exempt videos embedded on Whitehouse.gov from this logging.”

Will that be good enough to satisfy hard-to-please critics like the EFF? Amazingly, it does! Though of course, they’d like to see more. Here’s Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director:

This is a good step and we commend YouTube and the Government for taking it. It shows that they recognize that tracking the government videos that Americans view is creepy and wrong. It also shows that Google/YouTube technologists can build and offer clever, useful privacy-protective modifications to their standard software.

Now we’d like to see them turn that cleverness to other places, not just the White House. Google/YouTube should offer this same “tracking-free” viewing to others. Human rights videos, politically sensitive videos, or even ordinary videos where viewers may want privacy should all be available without tracking…

In addition, the government should adopt “tracking-free” videos across the board for all government websites. Viewers of videos from the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, your member of Congress and other governmental entities deserve the same privacy protection that viewers of the President’s speeches.

The IRS has videos? Who knew? In the meantime, feel free to watch clips like this one, of Obama’s April victory over the UConn women’s basketball team in a game of “P-I-G” without worrying that the government is watching you watch.


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