Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Website Doesn't Give the Government Rights to Your Computer

There's been an email circulating that says that you shouldn't go onto the government's official Cash for Clunkers website, CARS.gov. It says that if you agree to the privacy policy, you are agreeing that your computer would be considered property of the U.S. government.

This rumor started with a poorly worded privacy policy on the CARS site. Someone, putting together a site very quickly, probably lifted the language from another government site. It looks as though this wording was intended to prevent leaks of sensitive data by government employees logging on to government computer systems.

On the CARS site, the privacy policy in question stated, "When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a federal government computer system and it is property of the United States Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected,..." Sounds like a horror movie that makes you want to erase yourself from the grid, doesn't it?

The truth is that this wording was used in error and has since been changed. Even if someone had agreed to this privacy policy, it would never have been enforceable. The government cannot make you give up any rights in order to receive an unrelated benefit. I seriously doubt that they would want to have all of your data anyway.

This unfortunate wording was actually on a page that was used by authorized car dealers, not consumers. The average person using the site is simply looking for information on the Cash for Clunkers program rules and which new cars and trade-ins qualify for the program. At no time would they ever submit data or receive data of a sensitive nature.

It's always a good idea to read what you're agreeing to, whether you're penning your name on actual paper, or clicking the button indicating that you agree to a website's terms of service. But Big Brother isn't quite here yet.

Coleen Bennett has been writing articles related to automobiles and car dealerships for about a year. Visit this independent website with more information about how to get your $4500 Cash for Clunkers money. Many dealerships are offering information right on their websites about specific new cars and trade-ins that qualify. See this San Jose Toyota Dealer for an example.

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