The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) is in the process of "considering options for revising the federal government's prohibition on web-tracking technology such as 'cookies,'" with a goal of protecting the privacy of persons visiting federal government web sites while simultaneously making those sites more user-friendly & allow enhanced analytics. (See Federal Register announcement)
The White House's blog back on July 24th., chronicled the federal government's policies with respect to privacy issues and the Internet starting back in 1999, when "cookies" could only be used to collect information from a site if the agency running it gave "clear notice" of that. In June 2000, the general policy was changed to read that "'cookies' should not be used at Federal web sites, or by contractors when operating web sites on behalf of agencies, unless, in addition to clear and conspicuous notice, the following conditions are met: a compelling need to gather the data on the site; appropriate and publicly disclosed privacy safeguards for handling of information derived from 'cookies'; and personal approval by the head of the agency." Now that's being looked at again because, over the course of the last nine years, "'cookies' have become a staple of most commercial websites with widespread public acceptance of their use."
Not much is ever simple & easy in government, though, and, as a Washington Post article, yesterday, said "Even groups that support updating the policy question whether the administration is seeking changes at the request of private companies, such as online search giant Google, as the industry's economic clout and influence in Washington have grown rapidly."