Check cookies, help FirstGov, get a life
- By Vic Powell
- Jul 27, 2000
Hooray for OMB. The June 22 memorandum issued by the Office of Management
and Budget's director, Jacob Lew, regarding privacy policies and data collection
on federal World Wide Web sites is on target. Regarding cookies, the memo
notes concern by the public when federal Web sites track the activities
of users when the site does not have a conspicuous notice about such recording.
automatic means of collection if clear notice was given. The year-later
memorandum says cookies should not be used on federal Web sites. Cookies
can be used if three conditions are met:
1. A compelling need exists to gather such data on the Web site.
2. The Web site appropriately and publicly discloses privacy safeguards
for handling information derived from cookies.
(When OMB refers to agency, it means department.)
To address such demands, I recommend that federal Web managers do the
* Check your Web site's notice to users to make sure the statement addresses
the handling of the information gathered and is not just a notice that cookies
or other such systems are being used.
* Make sure that agency approval is on file.
WebGov, a.k.a. FirstGov.gov
The governmentwide portal, now known as FirstGov,
is due in the fall and will link visitors to information and services posted
on federal Web sites. FirstGov is a complicated undertaking and should prove
to be valuable to the public.
Bob Maslyn, the General Services Administration's manager for FirstGov,
recently noted two key ways the Webmaster community could help the portal
* Place meta tag information on home pages. Description content and
keyword content should be typed in beneath the title code area. This will
help the FirstGov spider and for that matter, all search engine spiders locate and display your site's information.
* Register your agency's Web site when the FirstGov portal goes online.
Real vs. virtual life
The July 2000 issue of American Demographic magazine describes how "the
wonders of wireless technology have connected us even more to our jobs.
Cell phones, e-mail, laptops tools that promised us freedom from the cubicle now take us hostage on behalf of the boss."
Another publication describes the 27 technical skills needed by Webmasters.
My thought while reading it was that programmers need even more skills to
use a shipload of software.
There is so much to learn that specialization is the only answer to
staying afloat. In that sense, IT is beginning to take the track of professions
such as medicine and law. The ocean of knowledge and skills is so vast that
the only way to be successful is to narrow one's focus to a few specialties.
Trying to keep fully informed about all developments can root you in
front of a monitor or attached to electronic devices. A friend who works
at a computer all day recently told me that after work he goes home and
plays computer games. Really.
Virtual life can sap your energy and awareness of the real stuff.
Have you spent time with family or friends? Have you talked with them
recently for more than two sentences? Been walking in Old Town Alexandria
or hiked up Sugarloaf Mountain? Or exercised recently, or done the thousand
and one things that make life real and enjoyable?
This weekend, shut down the computer, turn off the cell phone, do something
outside and tell a friend about it. There's real life out there. Go get
it. Make it one of your first priorities. You might last longer in the business
Powell is the Agriculture Department's Internet and intranet Webmaster.