January 6, 2006
Dozens of U.S. senators are quietly tracking visits to their Web sites even though they have publicly pledged not to do so.
Sixty-six politicians in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are setting permanent Web cookies even though at least 23 of them have promised not to use the online tracking technique, a CNET News.com investigation shows.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for instance, has been a longtime advocate of strict privacy laws to restrict commercial Web sites’ data collection practices. In a statement posted on his own Web site, McCain assures visitors that “I do not use ‘cookies’ or other means on my Web site to track your visit in any way.”
But visiting mccain.senate.gov implants a cookie on the visitor’s PC that will not expire until 2035.
“ColdFusion was used to design the site by a third-party vendor, and we were not aware of any cookies,” McCain’s office said in a statement sent to CNET News.com, referring to Adobe Systems’ popular Web design software. “The information collected is not used by our office for any purpose, and we are currently in the process of deleting them.”
There are no rules prohibiting the use of Web monitoring techniques by Congress. But as the Cato Institute’s Jim Harper told CNET, the irony here is rich.
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