The Cookie Question - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
News

The Cookie Question

The privacy policy at the IRS's Web site clearly states that it doesn't use browser cookies. Except it does. Sort of.

The Internal Revenue Service's online privacy policy states: "We do not use cookies, a file placed on a visitor's hard drive that allows the Web site to monitor the individual's use of the site," but the agency's home page does, indeed, create a cookie.

But it's a benign cookie. It expires in just four minutes, leaving nothing but an empty cookie entry. (If you lack a tool that lets you examine changes to your cookie file, you can see the entries at web-caching.com.

The site does use a cookie, admits Greg Carson, the IRS's director of Internet services. However, it's used as a session ID and to help optimize the site's load-balancing functions. The cookie, which expires after four minutes or when you close your browser, isn't used for tracking purposes. The IRS, which, like other federal agencies, is operating under a White House directive not to use cookies, had long debates about how to word its privacy policy, Carson says. Should it explain the difference between a session cookie and a persistent cookie? How many site visitors would make a distinction? The current wording was chosen, he says, because the agency wanted to focus on "what's the message we really wanted to get across? We don't use cookies to track what a user does."

Fred Wilf, a technology attorney at Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia, points out that when users see a reference to cookies, they think of the technology rather than how it's being used. Even though the IRS hasn't violated its privacy policy, Wilf says, "Ambiguous statements like this, while probably not a violation of any statutes or regulations, demonstrate the difficulty in developing a privacy policy. The whole issue is how to provide legal protection and a service for consumers, while describing the underlying technology in an understandable manner."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Slideshows
Reflections on Tech in 2019
James M. Connolly, Editorial Director, InformationWeek and Network Computing,  12/9/2019
Slideshows
What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/4/2019
Commentary
Watch Out for New Barriers to Faster Software Development
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  12/3/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
The Cloud Gets Ready for the 20's
This IT Trend Report explores how cloud computing is being shaped for the next phase in its maturation. It will help enterprise IT decision makers and business leaders understand some of the key trends reflected emerging cloud concepts and technologies, and in enterprise cloud usage patterns. Get it today!
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll