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Federal Cookie Monsters
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Federal Cookie Monsters
The Business.gov community has been operational now over two months and has steadily grown since its mid-February launch to over 2,500 registered users. As we talk to colleagues and stakeholders about the community, one of the inevitable questions is “What’s next”? What you the end user community would like us to do and what’s doable as a federal sponsored online community might be two different things. This article seeks user input on the use of 'persistent' cookies on the Business.gov community.
What is a persistent cookie?
A natural evolution of the community and business.gov would be to provide more personalized services. In fact, on more than one occasion, you have asked us to enable personalization so that, if you choose, you can customize your experience on Business.gov by setting preferences much as you can and do for e-commerce sites. Most e-commerce sites enable this personalization through the use of “persistent cookies,” a unique identifier for a user stored in a file on the user’s computer. Although used for a variety of things, a cookie’s main function is to track a visitor’s habits and information related to the user’s browsing habits, the visitor's site password, pages visited within the site, how the user found the site, and detailed statistical data including the length of time for each visit per site or per page.
Current policy and practice on federal agency use of persistent cookies
Potential benefits of persistent cookies
In addition, managers of federal web sites and communities can use the data gathered to better design and evolve web offerings to meet users’ needs. For instance, by tracking how users browse a web site, the federal agency can better determine which pages are the most popular and useful to a particular type of user and continue to focus efforts on developing them.
Conversely, web pages that get little repeat traffic might need to be improved, promoted better or abandoned for lack of interest. Another benefit is that users would have a more seamless experience on the web site because it is possible to enable available features that make navigation and contributing easier. For the users of this community, what are your thoughts on the risks and benefits of persistent cookies? Is this a concern of yours? Are you concerned about the use of your “personal” data? Are you frustrated that personalization is not an option? Are you content that federal websites are essentially prohibited from using persistent cookies? Gives us your thoughts or contribute to the forums referenced in this blog to contribute to this debate!