Presidential cookies… and your privacy
If the presidential candidates Web sites were government Web sites, they would violate federal privacy rules.
The Web sites of both presidential candidates use Web cookies. Web cookies are, to use the definition that the NIST Web site uses, are “small bits of text that are either used for the duration of a session (â€œsession cookies) or saved on a user’s hard drive in order to identify that user, or information about that user, the next time the user logs on the a Web site (“persistent cookies”).” By OMB mandate as part of the E-Gov Act, persistent cookies are not allowed on federal Web sites unless specifically approved — and the approval process is somewhat arduous, so few do it.
So I thought it would be interesting to see how the presidential candidates deal with the issue — and while both the Obama and McCain Web sites use persistent cookies, they both talk about it in their Web privacy policies.
We log IP addresses, which are the locations of computers or networks on the Internet, and analyze them in order to improve the value of our site. We also collect aggregate numbers of page hits in order to track the popularity of certain pages and improve the value of our site. We do not gather, request, record, require, collect or track any Internet users’ Personal Information through these processes.
You also have choices with respect to cookies. By modifying your browser preferences, you can accept all cookies, be notified when a cookie is set, or reject all cookies. (For more information on how to block or filter cookies, see http://www.cookiecentral.com/faq.) However, if you reject some or all cookies, your experience at our site and other sites throughout the World Wide Web may not be complete. Also, you would be unable to take advantage of personalized content delivery offered by other Internet sites or by us.
We may use pixel tags (also known as web beacons or clear GIF files) or other tracking technology to help us manage our online advertising and to analyze and measure the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns and the general usage patterns of visitors to our Web site.. Such technologies may also be used by third party advertising service providers who serve or assist us in managing ads on our site, such as DoubleClick, Yahoo Tremor and 24/7 RealMedia. These files enable us or these third parties to recognize a unique cookie on your Web browser, which in turn enables us to learn which advertisements bring users to our website and to deliver advertising targeted to your interests. The information that is collected and shared using these pixel tags and similar technology is anonymous and not personally identifiable. It does not contain your name, address, telephone number, or email address. We are not responsible for and do not control any actions or policies of any third party advertising technology service providers or of any third party members of any related advertising networks. For more information about DoubleClick, including information about how to opt out of the use of these technologies by DoubleClick, go to http://www.doubleclick.net/us/corporate/privacy. To opt out of collection by 24/7 Real Media, please visit: http://www.247realmedia.com/opt-out.html. To opt our of collection by Yahoo Search Marketing, please go to http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/ysmt/details.html.
Obama’s Web site also had a cookie that expired… in 1919. Hmmm.
Information collected when you donate: When you make a contribution to John McCain 2008, federal law requires us to collect and report the following information: name, mailing address, employer, occupation, and amount of contribution. Federal law requires us to report this information to the Federal Election Commission if an individual’s contribution or contributions aggregate in excess of $200 in a single election cycle. Contributions from corporations, government contractors, foreign nationals without a “green card,” and minors (individuals under the age of 18) are prohibited. Any credit card information provided is only used to immediately process your donation. John McCain 2008 does not retain your credit card information once the donation is processed online. John McCain 2008 may also choose to publicly disclose donors online or in other methods.
Cookies are a privacy low hanging fruit, and that’s why I often check in on them. Often the biggest issue with privacy is giving people the option — telling them what you are doing and letting them decide — transparency, even.
Earlier in the year when I looked at all of the campaigns cookies, the campaign with the most persistent cookies: Rudy Giuliani. Cookies on his Web site expired on January 17, 2038… but even he had an explainer.