ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Saturday, December 31, 2005

They have the internet on computers now.....

(H/T Jonah at the Corner)

The title is a line from the Simpson's, so it sounds a little funnier if you say it in Homer's voice, but I digress.

In a related story to my post yesterday about the intrepid AP digging into the NSA website and finding, horror of horrors, that they were using persistent cookies, the AP seems to now be doing website analysis on the entire federal government. Of course they hit the White House.

The White House's site uses what's known as a Web bug — a tiny graphic image that's virtually invisible — to anonymously keep track of the number and time of visits. The bug is sent by a server maintained by an outside contractor, WebTrends Inc., and lets the traffic-analysis company know that another person has visited a specific page on the site.
Oh no! Karl Rove is tracking who goes to the White House web site! It must be that Gulag's are right around the corner! Let's read further:

Web bugs themselves are not prohibited. However, under a directive from the White House's Office of Management and Budget, they are largely banned at government sites when linked to cookies, which are data files that let a site track Web visitors.

Cookies are not generated simply by visiting the White House site. Rather, WebTrends cookies are sometimes created when visiting other WebTrends clients. An analysis by security researcher Richard M. Smith shows such preexisting cookies have then been read when users visit the White House site.

So its not prohibited, but it looks funny to the AP writer (and obviously his editor) since he's writing a national news story about it. Is the White House tracking its users for some nefarious purpose?

The discovery and subsequent inquiries by The Associated Press prompted the White House to investigate. David Almacy, the White House's Internet director, said tests conducted since Thursday show that data from the cookie and the bug are not mixed — and thus the 2003 guidelines weren't violated.

Oh. So no story here. But yet they printed it. Why?
Nonetheless, agencies occasionally violate the rules — inadvertently, they contend. The CIA did in 2002, and the NSA more recently. The NSA disabled the cookies this week and blamed a recent upgrade to software that shipped with cookie settings already on. (emphasis added)
Obviously the AP writer doesn't believe the NSA side of the story! To my earlier question of whether there were editors left at the AP, it appears the answer is no.

Attention, Department of Agriculture! You might want to make sure your not tracking users with a web bug. I'm sure the AP is going to go down the list alphabetically, so you're probably next.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Comments (4)
Monterey John said...

Cookies! Gasp! Oh me, oh my! The sky is falling. Just like South Africa under apartheid! From hell I can hear Beria chuckling.

Good grief!

Brian said...

Yep its impeachment time!


49erDweet said...

Too bad the voting public can't simply impeach the AP's and NYT's "less than professional" editorial staff

Sean Gleeson said...

I scooped the AP on this one: Rumsfeld uses hyperlinks on domestic Web pages