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Volume 2, Issue 76: Wednesday, July 5, 2000
- "Silicon Valley Learn to Woo Regulators From Washington"
Financial Times (07/05/00) P. 6; Lerner, Dan
High-tech companies are increasingly taking an interest in politics, as the Microsoft antitrust trial and other issues such as privacy highlight the impact legal issues can have on the industry. Major tech companies are setting up offices in Washington and hiring lobbyists to push their views on legislators, while small companies are also getting involved. For example, Manish Vij, who runs the startup Pointera, is closely following copyright lawsuits that could affect his company. Pointera offers file-sharing technology that works much like the music-trading software Napster, which is now the target of a copyright violation lawsuit. Startups and larger companies alike can now have a stronger impact on politics than in the past, as the high-tech industry seems poised to become a major source of campaign funding. In addition, as e-commerce draws more interest from the general public, candidates will likely use e-commerce issues in their campaigns.
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- "High-Tech Companies Steering Young Girls to Careers in Computer Science"
Associated Press (07/04/00); Cook, Jacqui Podzius
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) and technology experts are finding that girls are lagging behind boys in computer science. Largely due to a lack of confidence and interest in computer science, young women are avoiding IT-related studies; while the number of women claiming computer science/information science bachelor's degrees peaked in 1995 with 36.8 percent, the number had fallen below 30 percent by the mid-1990's, with some university programs averaging even less. IBM's Women in Technology program chairwoman Linda Scherr warns that the industry faces a critical problem as the majority of women, who comprise half the work force, are choosing not to enter IT professions. To prepare girls to meet the increasing demand for tech-savvy workers, companies such as IBM and Cisco are offering technology camps and certification programs targeting girls, and experts say that further encouragement is needed at home and in the classroom.
For information on ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women
- "E-Signatures: Ties That Bind"
InformationWeek Online (07/04/00); Hulme, George V.
On June 30th President Clinton signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, which has the potential to simplify and reduce the costs of e-business, as well as make business processes more efficient. The act states that the two entities utilizing an e-signature define the signature themselves. So, an e-signature could be "an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record," states the Act. The signature is invalid if the document is changed after the signing. Businesses and consumers alike will undoubtedly utilize online signatures, but businesses must rework Internet applications in order to accept and then store the signatures as well as determine methods to ensure transaction security. "Among large businesses, it's generally agreed that digital certificates used with electronic signatures offer the appropriate security threshold," says Bob Pratt, director of product marketing for VeriSign. Online signatures are securely contained inside digital certificates. As a step to prepare for the utilization of e-signatures, Ameritrade made a deal with VeriSign to provide digital certificates confirming to clients that the sender of a document is legitimate. The use of digital certificates will increase the necessity for an outside business to assure the validity of the certificates, says Peter Osborne, partner-in-charge for e-business at Deloitte & Touche.
For information of ACM's work in the area of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto
- "You Paid That Bill with a Single Click. Or Did You?"
New York Times Online (07/02/00); Lloyd, Nancy
Although electronic bill paying is becoming more popular, consumers should be careful to ensure that the service is a help and not a hindrance. Most electronic payments fall into one of four categories and each have different drawbacks. Through pre-authorized direct debit, the creditors receive a scheduled payment from an individual's bank account automatically as long as the individual has authorized the process in advance. This service works well with fixed payments, but can cause problems with bills that vary. Consumer-initiated payments are paid by a service after the customer, who receives the bills, instructs the payment to be made. A few companies allow the customer to view the bill online and authorize the company to debit their account. Finally, bills can be sent directly to the consolidator, which stores the bill, and sends notification via email that the bills can be viewed and paid online. Although all four methods can be convenient, some feel that electronic billing reduces the customer's control and does not always permit the customer to know when the bill is being paid, according to George Barto, a research director at Gartner. Currently, electronic billing services tend to have better cost savings than checking accounts, and most are paid through a monthly fee. Drawbacks include electronic payments that are taken out of the customer's account immediately, but are not received by the creditor for upward of a week. Other difficulties can occur when a payment is made too early. Two major issues in electronic billing are security and privacy. If the domain name is entered incorrectly another site could obtain account and password information. And payments that are duplicated can be difficult to retrieve. Further, there is no proof that computer printouts will hold the same sway as a canceled check in court or when disagreeing with a tax collector.
- "Net Groups in World Wide Wrangle"
BBC News (07/04/00); Ward, Mark
The European registrars who manage the lists of Web sites with country codes such as .uk and .fr want assurances from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on service standards before paying a requested sum of money. ICANN, which manages the databases, called root servers, where the individual domain name lists are kept, requested payment from those organizations that handle country code domains to help it stay afloat, as no government helps to fund ICANN. The group of registrars has not signed a contract with ICANN and does not wish to pay for the costs ICANN took on when taking over the responsibility for the Internet databases from Network Solutions. The European registrars also state that no money will exchange hands until confirmation is received that the root servers are maintained on a 24-hour-a-day basis. "We're vociferously against a domain name tax being imposed by a U.S. company," says Fay Howard, general manager of the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries, the body that acts for the 30 organizations.
For information on ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html
- "Hard Sell for Software Sector"
Financial Times (07/04/00); Merchant, Khozem
India is emerging as a new force in the IT industry. After working with U.S. and European companies on the Y2K computer problem, Indian software companies are in demand for more lucrative services, including e-commerce and enterprise solutions. But these companies face several disadvantages as they attempt to expand further into the global market. Indian firms do not have as much bandwidth as companies in the West, and many of their most talented IT professionals are choosing to work abroad. The Indian government has given the industry a great deal of financial assistance, but software companies still feel hampered by the poor state of the country's Internet connections. Despite these drawbacks, Indian software companies have a positive outlook. Potential clients look favorably on their skills and the low cost of their services, and the industry projects software exports to reach $50 billion per year, approximately 10 percent of India's GDP, by 2008.
- "Call It Mission Impossible Inc.-Corporate Spying Firms Thrive"
Wall Street Journal (07/03/00) P. B1; King Jr., Neil; Bravin, Jess
Corporate-spying, also known as "competitive intelligence," is a booming business these days. Although the recent scandal involving allegations that Oracle hired an investigative firm to spy on rival Microsoft has brought attention to the practice, those in the corporate intelligence industry say such shenanigans have gone on since time immemorial. Virtually every major U.S. company has intelligence-collection capabilities of some sort, many of which are present at the company's offices all over the world. Motorola is often seen as the ideal model on which to base a business intelligence unit. Motorola's unit was established in 1982 by a CIA veteran. Although many business intelligence units have former FBI or CIA employees on the payroll, most corporate spies are accountants, market researchers, and MBAs, and most operations involve discovering upcoming mergers that could affect profits, finding out about new technologies before a company rival, and even exploring a rival firm's employee morale--basically, any information or data about a market or a rival that will allow a company to exploit an opportunity before someone else does. Some espionage experts contend that Oracle's dumpster-diving is an isolated incident, while others say that digging through trash--particularly if it is done defensively, in an attempt to prove that trade secrets have been stolen--is a legitimate and commonly occurring act. Foreign governments also are on the prowl for corporate secrets in America, according to U.S. law enforcement agencies, although European governments have recently made similar charges against U.S. intelligence agencies.
- "Microsoft Challenges Java With C Sharp"
Interactive Week Online (07/03/00); Babcock, Charles
Microsoft is introducing a new programming language, C Sharp (C#), to compete against the popular Java language. Java users outnumber users of C++, C#'s predecessor, 51 percent to 37 percent, according to a recent survey by the Cutter Consortium. Like Java, C# will correct the major deficiencies of C++ but will offer no real advantages over Java itself. Industry analysts question whether such a product can build a following for itself, let alone overtake Java. Microsoft says it will allow the language's internal elements to be made public and will cede authority of the language to an independent standards body.
- "European Lawmakers May Probe US-UK 'Spying' Satellite"
Financial Times (07/05/00) P. 2; Buckley, Neil; Graham, Robert
The European parliament will vote today on whether a full-scale investigation should commence looking into "Echelon," a joint spy satellite network rumored to be used by both the United States and the United Kingdom. A recent report for the European parliament by a British journalist alleged that the United States was using Echelon to monitor the faxes, phone calls, and emails of private European firms and then providing the information to U.S. companies in order for them to gain an advantage when attempting to secure contracts. The report contends that European firms such as Airbus and Thomson-CSF did not gain major contracts due to industrial espionage by Echelon. Although the U.S. government has never officially acknowledged the existence of Echelon, former CIA chief James Woolsey recently admitted that the United States did obtain information on European companies as a defense against the frequent paying of bribes by European businesses to secure contracts.
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- "Microsoft to Reward Its Technical Elite"
New York Times (07/03/00) P. C5; Markoff, John
Microsoft today will announce a new program that will honor its top engineers, in a move aimed at encouraging technical workers to remain on the research and development track. Initially, the company will name 16 distinguished engineers, including Charles Thacker, who helped invent the Ethernet, and David Cutler, who led the development of Windows NT. Each year about four or five additional engineers will be added to the program, which gives members a financial reward package similar to what is given to the company's vice presidents.
- "Companies Drop Dot-Com as Cachet Loses Respect"
Washington Times (07/01/00) P. C9; Engers, Rachel
Due to the hard times many Internet startups have been facing since the Nasdaq started to decline earlier this year, many online companies are removing the dot-com from their name or are changing the company name altogether in an effort to disassociate themselves from the poor dot-com market. LifeMinders, InfoSpace, and Preference Technologies, among others, are no longer dot-coms. LifeMinders removed the dot-com label because it did not reflect the company's offline business, said LifeMinders CEO Steve Chapin. InfoSpace similarly eliminated the dot-com because investors did not recognize that a majority of the company's revenue comes from brick-and-mortar companies, said Joni Hanson, vice president of communications at InfoSpace. "Many companies want to get away from the baggage and the negative perception," said JFax CEO Steven Hamerslag. Despite the hard times, some companies, such as CarsDirect.com, believe the dot-com tag is still an asset.
- "Amazon Founder: Web Firms Will Win Trusted-Adviser Role"
American Banker (06/30/00) P. 13; Power, Carol
Amazon.com intends to end financial firms' dominance of the trusted-adviser market for consumers, company CEO Jeff Bezos said recently at the PC Expo in New York. The online retailing giant, which counts 20 million customers from among 160 countries, is hard at work building consumer trust to further this aim, Bezos said. Bezos indicated that he expects online companies to eventually replace financial firms in the role of trusted-adviser. Amazon.com has made it known that it would like to enhance its electronic billing and payments systems, and in April the company said it would look beyond the financial services industry for partners in this endeavor. Bezos pointed to Amazon.com's new "Friends and Favorites" initiative as "a great example of personalization." Privacy and security are the foundations upon which online transactions are built, Bezos said, noting that companies must take measures to ensure the security of the data they hold. Credit cards have thus far mastered the market for online payments, although alternative payment schemes are beginning to establish a foothold.
- "Online Health Care Contends With Fraud"
InfoWorld.com (06/30/00); Fisher, Susan E.
Online pharmacies are adopting policies to secure prescription information in order to establish trust among consumers. "That's what our whole business is about--creditability," says CVS.com CEO and President Doug Callihan. "The customer hones in on, 'Do I feel comfortable having my health care needs being taken care of at this pharmacy?'" Major online health care sites are adopting industry self-regulation efforts such as certification from Verified Internet Pharmacy Sites (VIPPS), the National Association of Boards and Pharmacy (NABP), and Health Internet Ethics (HiEthics). To secure a VIPPS certification, an online drugstore must meet a set of 17 requirements concerning patient confidentiality, prescription security, quality assurance, and patient-pharmacist consultation. Meanwhile, HiEthics offers a set of ethical guidelines, including notifying users about collection of their personal data, and giving users the ability to specify that their data not be passed on to third parties. Many sites are also taking independent action to protect consumer privacy and data accuracy, including dating online content, identifying sources, encrypting patient information, and designing electronic prescription systems. Ultimately, the companies hope their self-regulation actions will satisfy the government, because they feel a new set of government-imposed online regulations will be a burden. Online pharmacies must already follow both federal guidelines and state regulations.
- "From Web to BBC America"
Electronic Media (06/26/00) Vol. 19, No. 26, P. 12; Whitney, Daisy
BBC America is preparing to broadcast the animated shorts "Thugs on Film" and "Sister Randy," developed on the Internet. Although other television companies have debated how or if they would broadcast content that originated on the Internet, BBC America is making a full commitment to the idea by airing the films exactly as they have appeared online. From a technical standpoint, there should be no problem transitioning the works from the Web to television; both films were created with television in mind and Web animation quality is actually higher than that of video, television's usual animation source, according to John Evershed, CEO of Mondo Media, creators of "Thugs on Film." BBC America's decision to present the films stems from its belief in using the Web and television in concert. "Whatever we do for the [television] channel and the Web benefits the whole team," says Parule Basu-Barua, vice president of development for BBCAmerica.com, which will also be running the films. "Thugs on Film" stars two British soccer hooligans who also review movies while "Sister Randy" features a nun who gives particularly poor art lessons. The films are no longer than five minutes in length.
- "Japan to Equal U.S. in Net Use by 2005"
Nikkei Weekly (06/26/00) Vol. 38, No. 1933, P. 2
Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications reported last week that the country will catch up to the U.S. in Internet users by 2005. The number of Internet users is projected to triple to 76.7 million people in the next five years, which would mean that 60.1 percent of the population would be Internet users. Japan had 21.4 percent of its population online at the end of 1999, compared to 39.4 percent in the U.S., and 45 percent for world leader Iceland. The continued surge of Internet access via cell phones, in addition to handheld games and the like, is expected to play a key role in the rapid rise in Japan's Internet population and e-commerce transactions. Japan is ranked 14th in mobile telecommunications, with 41 percent of its population using the technology. In five years, e-commerce transactions are expected to reach an annual $1.05 trillion, or 110 trillion yen. E-commerce in consumer goods is projected for 7.12 trillion yen, e-commerce via cell phones for 1.1 trillion yen, e-commerce for business-to-business goods 103 trillion yen, with total Internet business reaching 142 trillion yen. Still, Internet costs remain high, privacy concerns are emerging about personal information online, and there is a widening digital divide in income, region, and age.
- "Virus Threats Take Toll on IT"
eWeek (06/26/00) Vol. 17, No. 26, P. 69; Berinato, Scott
Computer security experts warn that the threat of a virus is becoming more problematic and damaging than the virus itself. Recent examples are the Timofonica worm and the Movie Trojan, both of which were overrated threats and neither of which did much damage. Because of such overblown rhetoric from anti-virus vendors, some computer security experts want to create a national virus scale standard that would rate the seriousness of threats. "There's no question just the threat of a virus is creating an absolute interruption of integrity and availability," says Mark Fabro, director of security assessment at Secure Computing. Lost productivity and added management are among the by-products of virus warnings and hoaxes. There has also been a pronounced turn away from anti-virus software and greater concentration on products that can control delivery vehicles, experts say.
- "Creating IP Services: On the Edge of What?"
Business Communications Review (06/00) Vol. 30, No. 6, P. 26; Borthick, Sandra L.
Internet-based services are becoming more popular as new business models emerge to take advantage of the potential of such services. New services include high-speed music and movie downloads, customized email, and applications hosting. Skeptics contend that many of the new services are just re-marketed versions of features available with the Bell System's Advanced Intelligent Network, or network-based renderings of computer-telephony integration applications. Despite criticism, some equipment, software, and service developers support such IP-based services and are investing billions of dollars in Internet-based services. Although Internet-based services are more widespread, Internet supporters are no longer pushing plans to replace PSTN with an IP-based system. In addition, discussions about integrated access and convergence are not as common. However, VoIP will re-emerge after voice quality issues are resolved. Many data services are much less developed than PSTN-based voice services, leaving room for greater growth potential and new advances. In order to begin providing IP-based services, network management and billing software is required, according to OSS suppliers such as Amdocs, Architel, and Kenan Systems. They believe some existing infrastructure components can be employed for the development of VPNs and other IP services. However, suppliers such as CoSine and Redback contend that IP services require powerful concentrating, muxing, routing, and switching hardware. Some of the most notable features being introduced by suppliers include routing, address management, and usage management.