GAO: Government Sites Playing 'Big Brother'

When the General Accounting Office (GAO) goes on a fact-finding mission, it often uncovers some pretty strange things.

Based on a new report, the GAO found that security and tracking aspects at many of government's Web sites do not meet stated guidelines, and that 13 agencies are secretly using technology to track the habits of its visitors.

The report, 'Opportunities and Challenges Facing the FirstGov Web Gateway' outlines these accusations. The site most currently in question is the new FirstGov site, a portal to other government sites. The GAO found that FirstGov did not have a security plan in place.

The other agencies in violation stem from a discovery last December. These sites use cookies to determine what pages users visit and what they request. Some of the government's highest-profile sites are included, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Government sites were ordered in June to stop tracking visitors, but the agencies cited at that time have ignored the directive. Many claim the cookies they use help customers fill out applications and help the agency keep track of purchases. Several agencies, however, use the cookies to track Web habits over the years and at least one agency has been found to be providing the information collected on its site to a private company.

The Clinton administration has suggested that all federal agencies should report their methods for using cookies when they submit their budget requests in December, along with a report on how they are attempting to correct any areas of non-compliance.

You may like these other stories...

Cybersecurity is no longer the domain of an organization's IT staff. It's moved to the boardroom, and in a big way. Accountants and financial managers may have been thinking it's just the province of the tech...
You probably don't want to think about how many times you access the File menu in Excel 2010 or 2013. Personally I think Excel 2010 has the best possible File menu arrangement, other than having Print Preview grafted...
Following other recent high-profile hacking events, investigators discovered yesterday that hackers broke into the draft work paper files of several famous CPA firms. Revealing images of the scantily clad documents have been...

Already a member? log in here.

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Sep 24
In this jam-packed presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA will give you a crash-course in creating spreadsheet-based dashboards. A dashboard condenses large amounts of data into a compact space, yet enables the end user to easily drill down into details when warranted.
Sep 30
This webcast will include discussions of important issues in SSARS No. 19 and the current status of proposed changes by the Accounting and Review Services Committee in these statements.
Oct 21
Kristen Rampe will share how to speak and write more effectively by understanding your own and your audience's communication style.
Oct 23
Amber Setter will show the value of leadership assessments as tools for individual and organizational leadership development initiatives.