DOE orders Web privacy review

Energy secretary wants to safeguard the privacy rights of anyone using DOE Web sites

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called Thursday for a review of the department's Internet operating practices to ensure that DOE is safeguarding the public's right to online privacy.

Abraham said he wants to make sure that the privacy rights of anyone using DOE Web sites are protected. "Protecting these rights through the responsible use of Internet technology must be of equal importance to us all," he said in a statement.

Abraham said agency heads have until June 29 to review all publicly accessible Web pages and sites within their organizations — including those maintained by contractors or facilities they manage — to ensure compliance with established policies on Internet privacy. Federal policies issued by the Office of Management and Budget in June 1999 and June 2000 will be applied.

Tom Welch, DOE spokesman, said the review is part of the department's ongoing efforts to make sure its Web sites are up to par. "As a leader in e-government, the department is constantly evaluating its extensive Web infrastructure to ensure it is in full compliance," Welch said.

One touchy area demanding attention involves the use of "cookies," which some DOE sites do use, he said.

OMB banned persistent cookies from federal Web sites in all but the most unusual circumstances. Persistent cookies are pieces of computer code placed on an Internet user's computer by a Web site. They track the user's movement from page to page through the Web site, and some track movements from site to site.

"Those DOE sites which use cookies do so under the guidelines permitted by OMB," Welch said. "This top-to-bottom review is to ensure the use of cookies is implemented with the proper approvals from DOE management."

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