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Federal Web Sites Violate Privacy Rules
Part 1: Use of data-gathering "cookies" tops violations
 More of this Feature
• Part 2: Detailed Findings
 Join the Discussion
"'Carnivore' is a new FBI system installed on a dedicated PC -- that can be set up to scan all incoming and outgoing e-mail for messages associated with a criminal investigation. Sort of an e-mail wire-tap. What do you think of Carnivore?"
Click to Read/Reply

  Related Resources
• Privacy on Health Care Web Sites Questioned
• File a Report of Internet Fraud
• Clinton Asked for Cyber Security Funds
The Federal Privacy Act
 From Other Guides
• Echelon - Super Snoop
Carnivore - FBI Snoop
• Critics Blast Online Snooping
• Online Liberty and the Law
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Entire Report (pdf)
• Electronic Privacy Information Center
Internet Fraud Info

Federal Inspectors General have reported that at least 64 U.S. government Web sites continue to violate Internet privacy policies issued by former President Clinton.

The revelation came in a report issued April 16 by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chaired by Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN).

Preliminary results of Internet privacy reports reveal that some federal agencies are struggling to manage their Internet sites and data collection practices without violating Clinton Administration privacy policies. Although fewer than a third of the reports have been completed, Inspectors General have already found 64 federal agency Internet sites that used unauthorized permanent "cookies," information-collecting devices whose use was restricted last summer.

"The federal government should be setting the standard for privacy protection in the Information Age," Sen. Thompson said, "One of the Bush Administration's early priorities should be to address the previous Administration's failure to comply with their own Internet privacy policy."

While Sen. Thompson noted that only a few Inspectors General were able to inspect all of their agency's Web pages, he highlighted the following violations of the privacy rules issued in late 2000 and early 2001 included the following:

Education Department: Half of the Department's Web pages that use cookies to collect personal information fail to post the required privacy policy statement. Nine Web pages collected email addresses without the user's knowledge.

Treasury Department: The Treasury Inspector found that 11 of the Department's 30 main Web sites failed to post the required privacy policy statement. Nineteen major Web sites were missing from the Treasury Department's main inventory of sites.

General Services Administration: The GSA Inspector found a Web site managed by a private-sector contractor on which the contractor used a persistent cookie under an agreement giving him ownership of all of the data collected by the cookie.

"I want to commend the Inspectors General from these agencies on the work that they've done so far. Their efforts are helping us eliminate cookies and bring the websites into compliance with privacy policies," Thompson said.

The Internet privacy reports were required by the Treasury-Postal title of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000. 

The legislation requiring the Inspectors General reports followed an audit ordered by Sen. Thompson in October of 2000 which found that 13 agencies were using the information-gathering devices despite claiming they weren't doing so.

Senator Thompson said that when Congress returns from recess he will be introducing bipartisan legislation to establish a commission to look at government privacy practices.

Next page > Detailed Finings From the Report > Page 1, 2

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