How we handle the information we gather when you visit our web site
Web server activity logs
Like most web servers on the Internet, our servers collect and store all of the information that your web browser sends when it requests a web page, including:
- the name, domain, and numerical internet address of the "host" computer (typically a computer belonging to your Internet Service Provider and not your personal computer) from which you access the Internet;
- the date and time you accessed our site;
- the Internet address of the web page that you came from;
- the page you requested from our site and the number of characters sent to your computer; and
- the information your web browser software sends as its so-called "User Agent," which typically identifies the browser software and may also indicate the operating system and type of CPU used in your personal computer.
It is impossible to determine the actual identity of an individual user from this information.
The logs are periodically summarized and analyzed in order to study site usage over time and to perform other studies to help us improve the site's organization, performance, and usefulness.
When you send us personal identifying information via e-mail (that is, in a message containing a question or comment, or by filling out a form that e-mails us this information), we use it to respond to your requests. We may forward your e-mail to other Government employees or contract personnel who are better able to answer your questions. We do not retain or distribute lists of e-mail addresses to any parties outside of the USGS except as necessary to conduct official U.S. Government business. In no event, do we distribute lists of e-mail addresses to non-Government entities.
File transfer protocol (FTP)
Many USGS sites using the file transfer protocol may also store your e-mail address if your web browser is configured to provide it. By default most web browser software does not send your e-mail address; this option is configured through your browser preferences. In Netscape Navigator, for example, this option must be set by you through the Advanced preferences category by the item labeled, "Send email address as anonymous FTP password."
When you voluntarily provide us with personal information as part of an online survey, we use it to perform various quantitative and qualitative analyses to improve customer service and satisfaction. We may forward the information collected to other Government employees or contract personnel to perform the actual analysis. You are under no obligation to participate in such surveys. Non-participation will not inhibit your use of our web site in any way. If you provided the information to us in error, you may request its removal at any time.
When you voluntarily provide us with personal information such as name, shipping and billing address, and credit card number when ordering products online, we use the information to fulfill your order. We may forward the information collected to other Government employees or contract personnel or to other computer systems (such as secure electronic commerce servers) to complete the requested transaction.
We may collect information from you, with your permission, that will allow us to provide various customer services, such as promotional materials and product availability notices. We may forward the information collected to other Government employees or contract personnel to provide specific marketing services. We will remove such information at your request.
Collection and release of gathered information
We want to make it clear that we will not obtain personal identifying information about you when you visit our web sites, unless you choose to provide such information to us. Except in the course of officially authorized law enforcement investigations, or in the event of a suspected attempt to deliberately circumvent our system's security with the intent to gain unauthorized access or to do physical damage (for example, an attack by hackers), we do not attempt to identify individual users or share any information we receive with any parties outside of the USGS. In the latter case, collected information associated with a suspected intruder might be shared through the USGS's Bureau Information Resources Security Administrator with an incident response service such as the CERT® Coordination Center.
Retention of collected information
Cookies - Some applications may save a "cookie" on your computer's hard disk to provide a temporary history of actions taken. A common example is the tracking of items placed in an online "shopping basket." We do not retain any record of "cookies" beyond what is necessary for running the application.
Web server activity logs - Monthly extracts of the log files are archived and stored off-line at our discretion for an indefinite period of time. Some statistical summaries derived from these data may be retained online or off-line at our discretion for an indefinite period of time.
E-mail - Information collected via e-mail will be retained at our discretion in a directly readable form for as long as necessary to complete our response. The e-mail itself may be retained in an archival form as required by Federal laws and regulations governing the retention of historical records of government agencies. For more information, please refer to the National Archives and Records Administration's Records Management Program.
Online surveys - Information collected via online surveys may be maintained at our discretion for an indefinite period of time.
Marketing information - Such information may be maintained at our discretion for an indefinite period of time.