Obama removes YouTube from YouTube-side chats

Swallows Google spy cookie


US President Barack Obama has removed the YouTube from his YouTube-side chats, after repeated complaints over the video sharer's use of long-term tracking cookies on his official White House blog.

On Saturday, Obama's weekly video address made its usual appearance at WhiteHouse.gov. But this time, as reported by CNet, the site did not embed the video address by way of YouTube. It appears the White House is now delivering its own Flash-based video code via Akamai's ever-popular content delivery network.

In late January, CNet's Chris Soghoian pointed out that in placing YouTube videos on its site, the White House had exempted the Google-owned video sharer from a rule that forbids the use of long-term tracking cookies on federal agency websites. In typical Google fashion, YouTube was issuing tracking cookies to everyone who visited the president's blog - whether they actually watched a video or not.

Following Soghoian's post, the White House promptly altered its site so that YouTube cookies were issued only when a user actually hit the play button. But privacy watchdogs continued to complain that Obama's YouTube-side chats were undermining longstanding government policy.

"President Obama is leading the way in making new and unprecedented use of the new technologies to keep the public informed and engaged," read a blog post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, after it tossed a concerned letter to White House counsel Gregory Craig. "We are hopeful that his Administration will readily recognize that part of open and responsive Government is making sure that neither the government, nor any third parties, are tracking the activities of those who seek to access government information."

The White House seems to have acquiesced with its (unannounced) switch to a custom-built video solution. The White House did post Saturday's video address to its usual channel on YouTube's site, but it completely bypassed YouTube code in posting the video to its own site.

The move comes even as YouTube was attempting to update its code in response to the ongoing controversy. Sites can now choose a "delayed cookie" option when embedding videos, which duplicates the White House's January change. With delayed cookies, YouTube won't track users unless users hit the play button.

It appears that YouTube is also including a link to its privacy policy in videos posted to government websites. That's right, the White House wasn't the only one exempting Google from federal privacy policy. ®

Update

The White House has told The New York Times that it's use of a custom Flash player was just a test.

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Did ID.me hoodwink Americans with IRS facial-recognition tech, senators ask
    Biz tells us: Won't someone please think of the ... fraud we've stopped

    Democrat senators want the FTC to investigate "evidence of deceptive statements" made by ID.me regarding the facial-recognition technology it controversially built for Uncle Sam.

    ID.me made headlines this year when the IRS said US taxpayers would have to enroll in the startup's facial-recognition system to access their tax records in the future. After a public backlash, the IRS reconsidered its plans, and said taxpayers could choose non-biometric methods to verify their identity with the agency online.

    Just before the IRS controversy, ID.me said it uses one-to-one face comparisons. "Our one-to-one face match is comparable to taking a selfie to unlock a smartphone. ID.me does not use one-to-many facial recognition, which is more complex and problematic. Further, privacy is core to our mission and we do not sell the personal information of our users," it said in January.

    Continue reading
  • Meet Wizard Spider, the multimillion-dollar gang behind Conti, Ryuk malware
    Russia-linked crime-as-a-service crew is rich, professional – and investing in R&D

    Analysis Wizard Spider, the Russia-linked crew behind high-profile malware Conti, Ryuk and Trickbot, has grown over the past five years into a multimillion-dollar organization that has built a corporate-like operating model, a year-long study has found.

    In a technical report this week, the folks at Prodaft, which has been tracking the cybercrime gang since 2021, outlined its own findings on Wizard Spider, supplemented by info that leaked about the Conti operation in February after the crooks publicly sided with Russia during the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

    What Prodaft found was a gang sitting on assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars funneled from multiple sophisticated malware variants. Wizard Spider, we're told, runs as a business with a complex network of subgroups and teams that target specific types of software, and has associations with other well-known miscreants, including those behind REvil and Qbot (also known as Qakbot or Pinkslipbot).

    Continue reading
  • Supreme Court urged to halt 'unconstitutional' Texas content-no-moderation law
    Everyone's entitled to a viewpoint but what's your viewpoint on what exactly is and isn't a viewpoint?

    A coalition of advocacy groups on Tuesday asked the US Supreme Court to block Texas' social media law HB 20 after the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last week lifted a preliminary injunction that had kept it from taking effect.

    The Lone Star State law, which forbids large social media platforms from moderating content that's "lawful-but-awful," as advocacy group the Center for Democracy and Technology puts it, was approved last September by Governor Greg Abbott (R). It was immediately challenged in court and the judge hearing the case imposed a preliminary injunction, preventing the legislation from being enforced, on the basis that the trade groups opposing it – NetChoice and CCIA – were likely to prevail.

    But that injunction was lifted on appeal. That case continues to be litigated, but thanks to the Fifth Circuit, HB 20 can be enforced even as its constitutionality remains in dispute, hence the coalition's application [PDF] this month to the Supreme Court.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022