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On Cookies

Over the past two weeks, during the public comment period on OMB’s cookie policy, we have received significant feedback and suggested revisions to the current policy. These comments reflect individual opinions on all sides of the issue.
Our main goal in revisiting the ban on using persistent cookies on Federal websites is to bring the federal government into the 21st century. Consistent with this Administration’s commitment to making government more open and participatory, we want federal agencies to be able to provide the same user- friendly, dynamic, and citizen-centric websites that people have grown accustomed to using when they shop or get news online or communicate through social media networks, while also protecting people’s privacy.
It is clear that protecting the privacy of citizens who visit government websites must be one of the top considerations in any new policy. This is why we’ve taken such a cautious approach going forward and why we felt it so important to get feedback and hear from people on this. While we wanted to get people’s ideas for improving our policy, we also needed to hear any concerns so that we could understand better where potential pitfalls might lie.
This privacy issue has recently received some attention in the media. We want to make it clear that the current policy on Federal agencies’ use of cookies has not changed. Moreover, the policy won’t change until we’ve read the public comments that have been submitted to ensure that we’re considering all sides of the issue and are addressing privacy concerns appropriately.
We would also like to take this opportunity to address a potential misperception. Some articles have hinted that the government is creating special exemptions for third-parties from existing privacy rules, with the result that there wouldn’t be adequate protection of people’s personal information. This is not true. The current policy in place on persistent cookies continues to apply to all Federal agencies and to those agencies’ use of third-party applications, whenever personal information is collected on the agency’s behalf.
Once again, we appreciate everyone’s contribution to this topic and are grateful for the time and energy devoted by those who provided such useful insight on this issue.
Michael Fitzpatrick is Associate Administrator, OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Vivek Kundra is Federal CIO.