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White House Announces New Cookie Policy. Of Some Sort.

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, June 25 2010

Hours ago, the Obama White House issued a new policy on how the federal government thinks about online "cookies," and other aspects of the modern digital experience with privacy implications. From the OMB memo (pdf):

The purpose of this Memorandum is to help Federal agencies to protect privacy, consistent with law, whenever they use web-based technologies to increase openness in government. As explained below, the Memorandum builds on OMB's existing guidance; it calls for transparent privacy policies, individual notice, and a careful analysis of the privacy implications whenever Federal agencies choose to use third-party technologies to engage with the public.

It's fairly late on a hot and sticky Friday, so I'm going to level with you. Step in close, because I don't want to have to yell. I have no idea what the White House has done here. Now, on a reporters' call ostensibly explaining the new cookie policy, Michael Fitzpatrick, the associated administrator at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (aka OIRA), talked about it as a step towards closing the gap between "information elites" and regular folk. People with ties with GSA, an important spot in the federal IT universe, seem pleased.

But it seemed to me from the call that they've erected a fair number of hoops that feds will have to jump through before they can do the things with Twitter, Facebook, and so on that the rest of us do as a matter of course. On the call, there was talk of different rules for engagement tiers, approval processes, CIO consultations, new privacy notice requirements, opt-outs and more. Seriously, I couldn't follow it all, and I try to pay attention.

So, alas, I'm going to have to do some work, reading the dang memos, talking to people, yadda. Sigh. In the meantime though, Federal News Radio has a look at the new policy, as does NextGov, where it's framed as the death notice for a federal cookie ban. Government types are tweeting about it over here. Also, here's an adorable picture of a cat stealing a cookie.

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