At the risk of sounding like the boy who cried wolf, I offer to you the following fresh disclosure.  Internet traffic has been monitored at the White House’s website.  And to make this slightly more disturbing, the claim is that this has been done without the knowledge of the administration.

(CBS/AP) Without the knowledge of the Bush administration, an outside contractor has been using Internet tracking technologies that may be prohibited to analyze usage and traffic patterns on the White House’s Web site, an official said Thursday. …

The White House Web site uses what’s known as a Web bug to anonymously keep track of who’s visiting and when. A Web bug is essentially a tiny graphic image – a dot, really – that’s virtually invisible. In this case, the bug is pulled from a server maintained by WebTrends and lets the traffic analytic company know that another person has visited a specific page on the site.

This follows the disclosure that the NSA website was placing cookies on the computers of visitors.  (This was the subject of my diary about the NSA site yesterday here.)

Last week, the National Security Agency halted its cookie use after a privacy activist complained and Wednesday, agency officials acknowledged they had made a mistake. …

Until Tuesday, the NSA site was creating two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 — likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.

David Almacy, White House Internet Director, who is either clueless or a liar, had this confidence-inspiring quote:

“No one even knew it was happening,” Almacy said. “We’re going to work with the contractor to ensure that it’s consistent with the OMB policy.”

Prior policy was established against use of web bugs when combined with cookies.

Web bugs themselves are not prohibited, but when they are linked to a cookie so that a site can tell if the same person has visited again – a federal agency using them must demonstrate a “compelling need,” get a senior official’s signoff and disclose such usage, said Peter Swire, a Clinton administration official who helped draft the original rules.

Cookies are widely used at commercial Web sites and can make Internet browsing more convenient by letting sites remember user preferences. For instance, visitors would not have to repeatedly enter passwords at sites that require them.

But privacy advocates complain that cookies can also track Web surfing, even if no personal information is actually collected.

WebTrends Link has many large corporate customers.  From the “About WebTrends” section of the WebTrends site:


Thousands of web-smart organizations worldwide, including more than half of the Fortune and Global 500, depend on WebTrends to improve their web site conversions and optimize their marketing performance for maximum return on investment.

As the worldwide market leader for web analytics, WebTrends has become the trusted standard not only for award-winning technology, but also for a full range of consulting services and unmatched industry expertise.

Trusted is hardly the word that comes to mind.  


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