Home / Blogs

YouTube, the Government, and Privacy

Steven Bellovin

It was just announced that every member of Congress will be able to create his or her own channel on YouTube. Viewers can go to the House or Senate home pages and navigate via a map to find the videos they're interested in. While it is good that citizens will have more insight into what their Senators and Representatives think, the way this is being done poses a serious privacy risk.

YouTube is, of course, a private company owned by Google. As such, it is not particularly constrained by (U.S.) privacy law. It can and does deposit cookies, deal with 3rd-party advertisers, etc. I opened a fresh web browser, with no cookies stored, and went directly to the House site. Just from that page, I ended up with cookies from YouTube, Google, and DoubleClick, another Google subsidiary. Why should Google know which members of Congress I'm interested in? Do they plan to correlate political viewing preferences with, say, searches I do on guns, hybrid cars, religion, privacy, etc.?

The incoming executive branch has made the same mistake: President-Elect Obama's videos on Change.gov are also hosted on (among others) YouTube. Nor does the privacy policy say anything at all about 3rd-party cookies.

The problem of government sites using persistent cookies is not new. 3rd-party cookies are much worse, because they allow cross-site tracking. As the

CNET column suggests, the government should and must host its own videos.

By Steven Bellovin, Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. More blog posts from Steven Bellovin can also be read here.

Related topics: Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Privacy, Web

WEEKLY WRAP — Get CircleID's Weekly Summary Report by Email:


To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News


Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

Protect Your Privacy - Opt Out of Public DNS Data Collection

"The Market Has No Morality" Sophia Bekele Speaks on Business Ethics and Accountability

Introducing Verisign Public DNS: A Free Recursive DNS Service That Respects Your Privacy

Dyn Comments on ICG Proposal for IANA Transition

Verisign Named to the Online Trust Alliance's 2015 Honor Roll

Afilias Supports the CrypTech Project - Ambitious Hardware Encryption Effort to Protect User Privacy

DotConnectAfrica on "CONNECTing the Dots: Options for Future Action" at UNESCO, Paris

IBCA Presentation to ICANN GAC on Protection of Geographic Names in New gTLDs

Verisign Launches New Monthly Blog Series: Top 10 Keywords Registered in .COM and .NET

Standards and Browser Compatibility

Season's Greetings - 2014 End of Year Message from DotConnectAfrica

Domain Name .Africa Faces Hurdles - Q&A with Sophia Bekele

.nyc Goes Public to Brand the Big Apple

Afilias Director Wins ICANN's 2014 Leadership Award

Mobile Web Traffic: A Dive Into the Data

DotConnectAfrica Contributes at the 9th IGF in Istanbul, Turkey

New from Verisign Labs - Measuring Privacy Disclosures in URL Query Strings

Video Interviews from ICANN 50 in London

ICANN London Recap Webinar

Four Reasons to Move from .COM to Your .BRAND Domain

Sponsored Topics