Alarm Sounds Over Internet Tracking Plans for Government Sites

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Big Brother wants to watch us, it seems. The Obama administration has suggesting loosening a ban on monitoring internet use, especially when it comes to those who visit government websites.

According to the Washington Post, the proposed use of website cookies and other technology to track web surfing has sounded the alarm for privacy groups.

Monday saw the end of a two-week period for public comment on a proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget to end a ban on federal internet sites using tracking. The ban has existed since 2000, but can be lifted if an agency claims "compelling need" to do so.

Supporters argue social networking sites and such already use tracking tech and employing those tools on official sites would help make make government more transparent and increase public participation.

Privacy groups counter the move is a marked change in government policy and should be questioned. In a statement issued Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union said lifting or even easing the ban could open the door to "allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website."

Some have also charged the government move is coming from pressure placed by large private firms such as Google. Both the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation noted a Feb. 19 agreement between Google and an unnamed federal agency that circumvents the tracking ban so that the agency could embed Google's YouTube video player, the Post reports.