Idaho State Journal
Idaho Since 1892
Idaho State Journal
Copyright © 2000
Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, a Jackson, Wyo.-based watchdog
group, is accusing the INEEL of spying on visitors to its Internet
INEEL closes Web site
Protesters say nuclear
agency is tracking activity over Internet
By Anne Minard
Thursday, November 02, 2000
POCATELLO - Officials at Idaho's nuclear site shut down their
Internet pages temporarily Tuesday, following allegations that
they have been spying on the public.
Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, a Jackson, Wyo.-based nuclear
watchdog group, is accusing officials at the Idaho National Engineering
and Environmental Laboratory of implanting small data files called
"cookies" on the computers of those who visit the INEEL
Internet site. They announced their suspicions in a recent press
"This is another example of a well-established pattern
of dirty tricks coming from INEEL," said KYNF board member
Tom Patricelli. "They set up a Web site to give the appearance
of openness and cooperation. What they don't say is they're secretly
monitoring who visits their site. It's not only a violation of
law, it's an abuse of public trust," he said.
But Nick Nichols, the INEEL media relations manager, denies
any foul play.
"The INEEL did not gather any personal information or profile
any Web users. That's absolutely untrue, and we deny categorically
that we've ever used cookies for that purpose," he said.
Nichols said the INEEL uses - and will continue to use - "session
cookies," which are not prohibited under federal rules.
Session cookies appear temporarily and are "strictly to
help the Web site visitor navigate through the site," he
Nichols said the function that allows an Internet user to return
to a previous page by clicking a "back" button is an
example of what a session cookie does.
"They are extremely common practice in Internet Web sites,"
he said, citing ABCnews.com, CNN.com, discovery.com, foxnews.com,
Greenpeace.org, and Yahoo.com as examples.
The federal Office of Management and Budget issued a policy
in June that prevents the use of "persistent" cookies,
which are stored on a user's computer.
At first, Nichols said the INEEL Internet site was shut down
for about an hour Tuesday, while one persistent cookie was removed.
"Further investigation revealed we did not have a persistent
cookie on our system. Ours were all of the session variety,"
he said later.
Nichols said the remaining cookies are compliant with federal
Anne Minard covers science and the environment for the Journal.
She can be reached at 239-3168 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.