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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

FCC Website:

Does It Violate FCC's Own Privacy Policy on Cookies?

Looking the other day at my web browser's "cookie jar" I noticed the cookie shown at left from wireless.fcc.gov as well as some other "session cookies" that were about to be erased.

I had noticed a similar cookie a few months ago and removed it, thinking it was ancient. But the reappearance of this cookie makes me think that FCC's web site is still putting cookies on users' browsers.

What are cookies and why should this matter? From the Electronic Privacy Information Center's site:

According to Netscape:

Cookies are a general mechanism which server side connections (such as CGI scripts) can use to both store and retrieve information on the client side of the connection. The addition of a simple, persistent, client-side state significantly extends the capabilities of Web-based client/server applications.

To put it more plainly, a cookie is a mechanism that allows a web site to record your comings and goings, usually without your knowledge or consent.

Federal Government policy on this issue is stated in OMB M-00-13, Privacy Policies and Data Collection on Federal Web Sites (June 22, 2000)

Particular privacy concerns may be raised when uses of web technology can track the activities of users over time and across different web sites. These concerns are especially great where individuals who have come to government web sites do not have clear and conspicuous notice of any such tracking activities. "Cookies" -- small bits of software that are placed on a web user's hard drive -- are a principal example of current web technology that can be used in this way. The guidance issued on June 2, 1999, provided that agencies could only use "cookies" or other automatic means of collecting information if they gave clear notice of those activities.

Because of the unique laws and traditions about government access to citizens' personal information, the presumption should be that "cookies" will not be used at Federal web sites.

FCC Privacy Policy echoes the OMB statement


Websites may send small pieces of text called cookies along with some of the web pages that you visit. Cookies are typically used on transactional pages as place-holders to retain context and content during individual user sessions, making it easier for you to use the dynamic features of these web pages without having to provide the same information repeatedly as you move from one page to another during your visit.

There are three types of cookies. A session cookie is a line of text that is stored temporarily in your computer’s random access memory (RAM) and is only available for the duration of an active browsing session. A session cookie is not placed on any hard drive, and it is destroyed as soon as you close your browser. A persistent cookie from a website is saved to a file on your hard drive and is accessed whenever you re-visit the website that put it there. This lets that website remember what you were interested in the last time you visited. A third-party cookie is a persistent cookie that is set by or sent to a website different than the one you’re currently viewing.

The FCC website does not use persistent or third-party cookies, but sometimes uses session cookies. Some of the interactive sections of our website may set session cookies in temporary memory in order to provide streamlined navigation. These session cookies are not stored on your computer's hard drive and are automatically erased as soon as you close your browser. Information from these session cookies is not collected or saved.

Then why I am still getting FCC cookies in my "cookie jar"?

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