Re: [RRE] IETF issues RFC on cookies

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From: Adam Rifkin (
Date: Mon Oct 23 2000 - 23:47:12 PDT

The press gets so antsy about cookies, too... "Rotenberg agrees that
only persistent cookies are cause for concern. Session cookies can be
useful, he says, but persistent cookies raise a red flag because they
can be used for profiling." Ugh, sweeping generalization.,1151,19600,00.html

> Federal Agencies Caught With Hand in the Cookie Jar
> October 23, 2000, 5:30 PM PDT
> Almost a dozen organizations are still using technology that collects
> personal data from their Web sites' visitors, despite a court order.
> By Ronna Abramson
> Nearly a dozen federal agencies are silently using technology that
> tracks Internet use of their Web sites' visitors, despite a 4-month-old
> White House order against the practice.
> As of this month, 11 of the 65 Web sites reviewed by the General
> Accounting Office were depositing software cookies on visitors' Web
> browsers, including three sites that were passing along the information
> to third parties without disclosure, according to a report released by
> the office Friday. Four additional agencies, including the U.S. Postal
> Service and Small Business Administration, were using cookies but
> disclosing the practice, the report found.
> "How can this administration talk about protecting privacy when its own
> agencies jeopardize some of the public's most private information?"
> Senate Governmental Affairs Chairman Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who
> requested the GAO report, said in a statement. "The federal government
> should set the standard for privacy protection."
> But one observer suggested partisan politics is probably partially at
> play. "Congress has been slow to act on the [privacy] legislation, and
> they're almost literally passing the buck to the White House," says Marc
> Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information
> Center, a public interest research organization in Washington, D.C. "I
> think [the White House] moved pretty quickly when the cookie [issue] was
> first raised to establish policy and limit use."
> In June, the Clinton administration issued strict privacy rules
> regulating federal use of the Internet to surreptitiously collect
> personal information. The order came after the White House Office of
> National Drug Control Policy had placed cookies on the browsers of
> visitors to its flashy Freevibe anti-drug Web site.
> Cookies are text files saved in a browser's directory or folder and
> stored in RAM while the browser is running. Some Web sites use cookies
> to store personal preferences or track visitors.
> The agencies still found to be using cookies without disclosures are the
> Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Trade and Development Agency,
> Federal Aviation Administration, Ames Laboratory, Bureau of Labor
> Statistics, Health Care Financing Administration, National Park Service,
> Central Federal Lands Highway Division, Federal Emergency Management
> Agency and U.S. Forest Service.
> Sen. Thompson reported that the Office of National Drug Control Policy
> site still is using cookies, although the GAO does not include it on its
> list. The administration refutes that claim. Peter Swire, chief
> counselor for privacy at the White House Office of Management and
> Budget, which issued the June order, says the site has no sign of
> cookies, and the drug czar's office says it is no longer using cookies.
> Swire says that six of the 15 sites found to be using cookies in October
> have responded to the GAO report or are in the process of responding. He
> also notes that six sites are, in fact, not in violation of the White
> House order because they were using a "session cookie" vs. the more
> egregious "persistent cookie." Session cookies do not violate privacy
> because they only live as long as the browsing session and then expire
> when the user quits the browser. Persistent cookies remain on a
> visitor's computer until a set expiration date and can be used to track
> behavior. Government agencies will be required to explain how they
> complied with the White House order on cookies when they submit budget
> requests in December, Swire adds.
> Rotenberg agrees that only persistent cookies are cause for
> concern. Session cookies can be useful, he says, but persistent cookies
> raise a red flag because they can be used for profiling.


It looks like Motorola sold its business partner,, down the river last week when it blamed its poor sales in part on the slow uptake of WAP phones, the browser for which is made by As a result of the damning report,'s stock tanked alongside Motorola's, dropping 29 percent in the two days following the announcement. Merle Gilmore, president of Motorola's Communications Enterprise, resigned amidst the mishandling of the bad news.

But Motorola will have to find another scapegoat, since and the company that it is acquiring, Internet infrastructure application maker (Nasdaq: SWCM), both blew away analyst estimates this week.'s revenue increased 62 percent from the previous quarter and losses were lower than expected, while the already profitable earned 13 cents per share, ten cents higher than what analysts were expecting.

"You have to keep in mind, we license our browser to 41 cell phone makers around the world, so whether they like the look of Motorola's phones or Ericsson's phones doesn't matter, as long as they are buying someone's phone with a WAP browser," says Ben Linder, vice president of marketing at, who resents having his company's fortunes tied to the misfortunes of a single cell-phone maker.


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