Risk
1/23/2009
05:49 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

White House Web Site Revisits Privacy Policy

Staffers address privacy concerns after a 1-by-1-pixel image file loaded by Web page code for tracking purposes is revealed.

With the Obama administration now in place, White House media staff has been reviewing the WhiteHouse.gov Web site this week to address issues raised by privacy advocates.

Embedded YouTube videos, which previously loaded and deposited a persistent third-party YouTube cookie in visitors' browsers automatically, have been moved behind an image of the video player that must be clicked to initiate loading. This addresses an inconsistency in the White House site's privacy policy, which stated that there was a way to view videos without receiving a persistent cookie.

The review could lead to changes in the site's privacy policy designed to clarify its privacy practices.

This action appears to be in keeping with a commitment to be responsive to community concerns. In the first blog post on the new WhiteHouse.gov on Tuesday, Macon Phillips, director of new media for the White House, solicited user input and said that "this online community will continue to be a work in progress as we develop new features and content for you."

Revamped on Tuesday, the new WhiteHouse.gov Web site immediately elicited criticism for transmitting data about its visitors to WebTrends, a Web analytics company, without adequate disclosure.

On the Interesting People e-mail list, maintained by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor David Farber, Karl Auerbach, CTO of at InterWorking Labs and an attorney, warned Tuesday that the WhiteHouse.gov site contains a Web bug.

A Web bug, also known as a Web beacon by those who prefer terminology less suggestive of surveillance (WebTrends uses "Clear GIF"), is a file loaded by Web page code for tracking purposes. It often comes in the form of a 1-pixel-by-1-pixel image file, which is too small to be noticed but nonetheless registers in server logs like any other file.

The Web bug on the WhiteHouse.gov home page is fetched by JavaScript code -- called via the script at www.whitehouse.gov/includes/webtrends.js or through the URL enclosed in [noscript] tags -- that collects data about the visitor's computer configuration and packs that information into the URL used to request the Web bug.

Thus, in the process of receiving the remote request from WhiteHouse.gov to serve a 1-by-1-pixel graphic, WebTrends also receives certain details about those visiting the White House Web site.

Auerbach observed in an e-mail that while he recognized some of the data requested -- his screen resolution and whether he had Microsoft Silverlight installed -- the other data gathered by WebTrends was unclear.

In a separate e-mail message sent to Farber's list, Steven Champeon, CTO of Hesketh.com, deciphered the WebTrends JavaScript.

Previous
1 of 4
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-0714
Published: 2015-05-02
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Cisco Finesse Server 10.0(1), 10.5(1), 10.6(1), and 11.0(1) allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified parameters, aka Bug ID CSCut53595.

CVE-2014-3598
Published: 2015-05-01
The Jpeg2KImagePlugin plugin in Pillow before 2.5.3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service via a crafted image.

CVE-2014-8361
Published: 2015-05-01
The miniigd SOAP service in Realtek SDK allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted NewInternalClient request.

CVE-2015-0237
Published: 2015-05-01
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) Manager before 3.5.1 ignores the permission to deny snapshot creation during live storage migration between domains, which allows remote authenticated users to cause a denial of service (prevent host start) by creating a long snapshot chain.

CVE-2015-0257
Published: 2015-05-01
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) Manager before 3.5.1 uses weak permissions on the directories shared by the ovirt-engine-dwhd service and a plugin during service startup, which allows local users to obtain sensitive information by reading files in the directory.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.