The White House webmaster apparently is apparently hearing concerns from privacy advocates about exemptions from federal rules for Google’s YouTube video service, but I’m not applauding the latest response at all.
In fact it disguises what’s happening, and down plays the relationship between Google and the White House, when what’s needed is complete separation of Google and state.
Here’s the deal: Federal regulations prohibit the use of "persistent cookies" on government websites. Cookies are small bits of code sent to a browser that allow the user to be tracked. When the White House website launched after President Obama’s inauguration, it featured Google’s YouTube videos embedded in the site.
Trouble was, that wasn’t what was happening. Cookies from Google were set when a user merely visited a page with an embedded "YouTube" video.
"This persistent cookie is used by YouTube to help maintain the integrity of video statistics. A waiver has been issued by the White House Counsel’s office to allow for the use of this persistent cookie."
"This persistent cookie is used by some third party providers to help maintain the integrity of video statistics. A waiver has been issued by the White House Counsel’s office to allow for the use of this persistent cookie."
This anything but a move toward greater transparency. If you’re going to grant exemptions to regulations, say who’s getting them. And it’s not at all necessary to use YouTube to display video on a website.
Google’s YouTube is the biggest and most popular of the online video services. That’s probably why The White House has created a channel on the service where it is posting official White House videos shot with taxpayer money.
But YouTube is hardly the only such service. The White House needs to make its videos equally available to all such services. Even worse is when the White House webmaster camouflages Google’s favored status.
We all must insist upon separation of Google and state.