The New York Times reports that the National Security Agency has been placing cookies onto the computers of anyone who visits their website. The cookies were tracking the online activity of those users. Two cookie files were not set to expire until 2035. An NSA spokesman said the files were an unintentional result of a software upgrade that was recently completed. The cookies are now disabled.
In 2000, federal agencies were given specific guidelines for acceptable use of cookie files. In 2003, an additional White House mandate said that if an agency is using cookies, they must describe how the information will be used and seek approval from a senior official.
In 2002, the CIA removed cookies from one of its websites after a privacy group discovered them.
Read CIO Senior Writer Ben Worthen’s theory about the NSA’s snooping.