DOT complying with cookie rules

DOT IG's "Report on Web Privacy"

The Transportation Department is complying with an Office of Management and Budget policy on cookies after a review last fall by the agency's Inspector General found at least 20 Web sites that violated the rule, the IG said in a Feb. 26 report.

Between August 2000 and February 2001, Transportation's IG identified 22 DOT Web pages using unauthorized persistent cookies. The General Accounting Office identified another site in December 2000. Twenty of the sites belonged to the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the "Report on Web Privacy" released by Alexis Stefani, assistant IG for auditing at DOT.

Cookies are a mechanism used on Web sites to collect information by placing small bits of data on Web users' computers, the report said. Persistent cookies track information over time and across Web sites and remain stored on visitors' computers until a specified expiration date.

OMB requires federal agencies to post clear notices when they use persistent cookies, and they must display privacy statements explaining how the information is used. Agencies must have a compelling need for the information collected by cookies and approval to do so by the head of the agency.

The IG first reported unauthorized use of persistent cookies on DOT Web sites in September during a congressional hearing. As of Dec. 31, 2000, all DOT agencies except the FAA had certified their compliance with the rule. In January 2001, FAA reported that it eliminated more than 80 unauthorized uses of persistent cookies, and certified its compliance with the Web privacy policy on Jan. 31, according to the IG report.

In February, the DOT IG found continued unauthorized use of persistent cookies on FAA Web sites and reported that unintentional cookies resulted from improper software configuration and a default setting on a certain Web development tool.

The IG also identified a few instances of persistent cookies on DOT contractors' Web sites.

At the IG's recommendation, the DOT chief information officer developed a "Cookie Use Checklist" for DOT agencies. The new IG report recommends that DOT update the checklist to require periodic re-certification of compliance with the Web privacy policy.

The IG also recommended in its Feb. 26 report that DOT agencies inform the DOT CIO of any inadvertent cookies introduced by Web configuration or development tools.

A new agency CIO has not been appointed by President Bush, but the DOT deputy CIO will correct the problems by March 15, the report said.


  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.