Is the White House Collecting Data on the Public via YouTube?

According to CNET, the White House has again changed its privacy policy regarding persistent cookies and online videos.  Now all video providers, it appears–not just YouTube–has received a formal exemption of the federal prohibition on persistent cookies.

But beyond the cookie issue–which shouldn’t be placed at all when the public watches a government video–are questions regarding statistical and tracking data.  Is Google/YouTube providing the White House with any analytics and user information [such as through YouTube Insight]?  For example, YouTube allows “brand channels” to know “the gender and age” of viewers; “identify the ways…users find your videos;” “Hot spots viewing information, which identifies viewing trends  for each moment in a video.” YouTube also permits brand channel video providers to track users via a “one 1px by 1px third-party tracking tag, which lets the channel owners use view-through tracking to better understand a user’s behavior after the user leaves the channel page.”

We assume the White House will answer such questions (such as whether they receive brand channel-like services), respond favorably to the FOIA request from Chris Soghoian, and ensure that the site reflects the highest possible consumer privacy standards.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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