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Volume 2, Issue 77: Friday, July 7, 2000
- "Business Links on Web Raise Antitrust Issues"
New York Times (07/07/00) P. A1; Leonhardt, David
The rapid proliferation of business-to-business (B2B) marketplaces online has caught federal regulators, consumer advocates, and legal experts off guard. Although corporate executives claim that these services will improve the bottom line for both businesses and consumers, these groups worry that B2B marketplaces may encourage the abuse of antitrust policies. What has them most concerned is that many of these marketplaces are designed and owned by competitors, such as the Covisint site, a collaboration between DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, and Ford. These exchanges present corporations and their suppliers with previously unthinkable opportunities to fix prices or to squeeze smaller companies out of the market. The exchanges process data so quickly that monitoring them or trying to prove that antitrust violations have occurred could be very difficult. Several government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Senate Commerce Committee, are now looking into the matter, and their conclusions and possible actions could have serious consequences for the business world. B2B marketplaces now generate more revenue than online retailers, their sales totaling $150 billion per year.
- "W3C Proposed XML Linking Technology"
CNet (07/06/00); Festa, Paul
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has issued a "candidate recommendation" concerning the use of XLink, the XML Linking Language that connects pages written in XML. HTML hyperlinks can also do this, but XLink is designed to handle the complexities specific to XML documents. XLink follows the "candidate recommendation" of XPointer, which allows users to address an XML document. The W3C would like users to try XLink for three months and then to offer comments about its performance.
- "UN Forum Seeks to Close Global Digital Divide"
On Wednesday, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) touted technology as a panacea for the ills of the developing world, particularly Africa, where technology could help improve the populace's understanding of the AIDS virus and other diseases. However, the ECOSOC warned during its conference on information technology that introducing technology to the world's poorer nations will remain a dream unless death rates and other quality-of-life statistics are improved in these countries. The digital divide between the world's developed and undeveloped countries is not so much a divide as it is a gaping gulf that threatens to expand even further with the growth of the digital economy. Indeed, New York already has more Internet hosts than all the countries of Africa combined.
Readers interested in the digital divide and related issues may wish to learn about ACM's upcoming conference on Universal Usability; visit http://www.acm.org/sigs/sigchi/cuu
- "EU Parliament Nixes Data Privacy Deal"
Newsbytes (07/05/00); MacMillan, Robert
The safe harbor data privacy agreement between the United States and the European Union has been rejected by the European Parliament, casting severe doubt on the accord's ultimate prospects for approval. One saving grace is that the European Parliament did not rule that the European Commission overstepped its legal authority by helping to craft the agreement; if it had, the commission would have been forced to abandon the agreement. A European Union source says that the EU is studying the ruling. The EU has the option of implementing the safe harbor agreement anyway, but the political consequences are likely to deter this course of action.
- "The FBI Raises Security Issues on NTT-Verio"
Wall Street Journal (07/06/00) P. A3; Simpson, Glenn R.; Cloud, David S.
The FBI has contacted the Treasury Department to report its concern about the upcoming purchase of Verio, a U.S. Internet service provider, by Japan's Nippon Telegraph & Telephone. The FBI wants to make sure that it will continue to have access to Verio's Internet business in order to get wiretaps and subpoena the company for data that may be needed to round out an investigation. The FBI's mission would be greatly complicated if a foreign government controlled the Internet operations. Similar concerns were raised by national security agencies when Britain's Vadafone AirTouch merged with the U.S. cellular operations of Bell Atlantic, and the possible purchase of Sprint by German Deutsche Telekom will also set off national security worries. Nippon says that it will do "everything and anything" to work with the U.S. government, possibly because lawyers in the case say that the FBI will derail the proposed acquisition if Nippon does not agree to certain conditions that would ensure continued FBI access to Verio's Internet transactions.
- "Upcoming Internet Elections Will Shape Online Use"
Associated Press (07/02/00); Jesdanun, Anick
Online international elections will be held for the first time this October for five general membership representatives on the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit body that makes decisions on technical Internet issues such as domain addressing. The voting will be done by continent in order to restrict U.S. voter influence. Candidates are being selected by a nominating committee, and later this summer users will be permitted to nominate themselves. Some users would like to see insider candidates, but ICANN does not release a voter list, and candidates require the support of 10 percent of registered voters.
- "European Domain Address Proceeds"
InfoWorld.com (07/05/00); de Bony, Elizabeth
On Wednesday, the European Commission announced that it will go to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to register the ".eu" address as a top level domain name. The .eu domain would permit European companies and individuals to identify each other online and thereby enhance the image of the European online infrastructure, says the commission. The commission made the move in part because the .com domain name is already overused. The .eu domain would enable companies to register under one domain name instead of registering in different EU countries, ending the need for individual country domain names, such as ".fr" for France.
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- "French Kill Anti-Privacy Law"
ZDNet UK (07/05/00); Knight, Will
The privacy threat posed by the Liberty of Communications Act is over. French Internet users and ISPs can breathe easier after helping to deep-six language in a French bill that would have jeopardized online privacy and held service providers responsible for false information. The French Parliament passed the bill in its original form in May with the aim of cracking down on illegal Web content, but immediately drew the ire of civil liberties groups and Internet companies across the globe. The French Senate responded to the outrage last week by amending the bill so that ISPs are not required to establish the identities of Internet users who publish content on the Web. The European Internet Service Providers' Association is quite happy with the amendments, noting that the act now "is very close to current practices." However, the bill still requires ISPs to filter illegal content on their servers.
- "Race to Supply Digital Signatures"
Associated Press (07/06/00); White, Michael
A new law signed by President Clinton last week could cause the next big online rush as digital signatures, which permit customers to purchase products on the Internet, become legal. Now electronic signatures can be utilized for all Internet transactions, although the electronic signature technology providers are eagerly looking for more substantial transactions, such as home purchases, Internet stock trading, government procurement, and large corporate contracts. E-commerce security companies, such as VeriSign and Entrust Technologies, stand to profit from the new law; these companies provide digital certificates, made up of encrypted code, that prove the consumer's online signature is valid. Other companies that will be boosted by the new law are those that sell the technologies and services allowing both individuals and businesses to place a signature on a document and securely store an original of that document.
- "Net Laws 'Still Allow Snooping'"
BBC News (07/06/00); Ward, Mark
Bowing to pressure from industry and privacy groups, the U.K. government last week revised parts of its Regulation of Investigatory Powers bill, but that did little to appease civil liberties advocates, who claim the changes did nothing to curtail law enforcement monitoring powers on the Internet. The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) examined the changes and determined that police and security agencies will still be able to monitor British citizens in cyberspace. In particular, FIPR took issue with a section of the bill that permits the use of a three-month blanket warrant permitting security agencies to search for "any referable factor." The warrant would permit the monitoring of email, Web surfing activities, faxes, and phone calls, according to FIPR Director Caspar Bowden. The House of Lords is expected to approve the bill next week.
- "New Global Cybercops"
TheStandard.com (07/03/00); Giussani, Bruno
Civil liberties advocates across the globe should be interested to know that the Council of Europe's International Convention on Crime in Cyberspace--a draft actively supported by the U.S. government--would give world governments the power to conduct "direct online searches" of Internet users' hard drives. Peter Csonka of the council's legal office has confirmed that the convention empowers governments with this ability. The wording of the convention does not contain provisions for search warrants or other types of notifications, raising the possibility that government authorities could remotely access users' hard drives over the Internet without leaving any evidence of their actions. The convention raises interesting issues of jurisdiction as well, as law enforcement agencies the world over would basically be able to flout national borders to access computer data located in other countries. The convention is to be put in its final form by summer's end, with a subsequent approval process slated to end in roughly 18 months. The U.S. government appears to view the convention as a convenient way to increase its online monitoring powers while avoiding the consumer privacy battles that are raging on the home front.
For information on ACM's activities in the area of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy
- "Leaving Moore's Law in the Dust"
U.S. News & World Report (07/10/00) Vol. 129, No. 2, P. 37; Yang,Dori Jones
Even if progress in chip technology is unable to keep up with Moore's Law in the next decade, computing power will continue to explode as a result of rapid advances in computer graphics, storage, and optical fiber networking. In terms of computer graphics, a cutting-edge graphics board is expected to rise from producing 1 million polygons per second in 1998 to generating 100 million polygons per second by next year. This means that graphics boards will become 100 times more powerful in the three-year period, significantly outpacing Moore's Law, which says silicon chips double in power every two years. Graphics will advance so quickly that graphics on a screen will be indistinguishable from looking out a window within two years, experts say. Meanwhile, computer storage is also speeding past Moore's Law as hard drive capacity doubles every nine months. While a standard PC now comes with up to 20 GB of storage, a single drive will have 1,000 GB, or 1 TB, of storage by 2003. In addition to increasing capacity, storage devices are also shrinking; IBM recently unveiled a hard drive smaller than a matchbook that stores 1 GB. Optical fiber networking, the underground cable that provides broadband Internet connections, is also progressing rapidly. The advances are due to wave-division multiplexing, which divides light waves to let one cable carry many messages on the same wave and is doubling its capacity every six months. By allowing more messages to travel over the Internet at the same time, wave-division multiplexing will help prevent traffic jams on the Internet even as the online population grows.
- "Who's Afraid of Cybercrime?"
E-Commerce Times (07/05/00); Brady, Mick
E-commerce security, consisting of a broad range of security issues grouped together, may make some individuals consider before shopping online, but has not stopped the flow of consumers utilizing the Internet to shop as online retail revenues continue to grow. Governments from around the world are taking online security very seriously. The European Union has developed a solid stand on privacy issues, and President Bill Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno have both requested action to make sure consumer privacy is protected and cybercrime is fought. President Clinton even warned businesses earlier this year that if industry does not take steps toward a safer online environment, then the government will. Recently the U.S. and EU formed an agreement that ensures privacy protection, with EU consumers being protected in the U.S. and U.S. companies being permitted to do business in Europe if the European privacy laws are upheld. The Electronic Commerce and Consumer Protection Group, which consists of seven of the top global Internet and e-commerce companies, in June offered new guidelines to protect consumers and promote communication on the subject of international online security. The guidelines recommend that consumers should be told when information is being collected on them and how that information will be used. Consumers should also have access to information collected on them and should be able to dictate how that information is used. Businesses will likely pay most attention to the need for online security when that need directly affects market share. Some companies are not doing much more than telling consumers that shopping online is safe. AOL, for example, is advertising how safe its site is for online consumers.
For information on ACM's activities in the area of privacy, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy
- "Companies Spin Personalized Portals to Their Advantage"
InformationWeek (07/03/00) No. 793, P. 74; Schwartz, Karen
Many companies are implementing portals as a way of providing workers with one-stop access to all the resources relevant to their jobs. Portals build on knowledge management efforts by providing the technology needed to access data, distribute reports, collaborate on projects, and monitor performance. By providing employees with fast and easy access to information, portals increase productivity as well as job satisfaction. As companies notice these advantages, the global market for business portals is expected to climb to $1.2 billion by 2003, according to the Yankee Group. The Federal Highway Administration created a portal using Lotus Domino release 5 templates and custom coding to provide information to its 2,900 workers. The portal serves a range of communities, each with its own area to hold discussions and to leave documents for others to work on. After launching the portal in June, the administration used the technology to help officials from various states share ideas on how to reduce fatalities on public roads. Although most portal suites are easy to install and users are often able to maintain the portals themselves, companies sometimes have trouble integrating a portal with their existing systems, experts say. Still, the Yankee Group predicts that in the next few years businesses will come to rely more heavily on portals, which will eventually become the standard business-user interface.
- "New Domains at Last"
Industry Standard (07/03/00) Vol. 3, No. 25, P. 118; Pressman, Aaron
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board of directors is expected to approve a plan to create new top-level domain names at their meeting in Yokohama, Japan, in mid July. Last month a staff plan released for comment an initiative with a four-month process that would establish new top-level domains by early 2001. The domain expansion plan would usher in millions of new names for Web sites, but would not be accepted with open arms by large businesses. Although ICANN has a mechanism in place to handle trademark disputes, large companies are not enthusiastic about registering their trademarked brands once again. Furthermore, they do not want to put up with cybersquatters. Still, there are benefits to new domains for businesses. ICANN would craft stricter rules that would allow, for example, banks to establish and police their own domain. The new domains proposed include .banc and .shop for financial sites and generic e-commerce sites, .nom for individuals, .noncom for noncommercial Web sites, .union for accredited international unions, and .xxx or .sex for pornographic sites. While ICANN moves to add the new domains, the group is still facing challenges to its legitimacy that could derail its efforts. The U.S. General Accounting Office has a report coming in July that will review the legal authority under which ICANN was set up, although Congress might not pursue the matter this year. Meanwhile, ICANN's election of new board members could be contentious.
For information on ACM's Internet governance work relating to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html
- "Someone to Watch Over You"
Business Week (07/10/00) No. 3689, P. 189; Armstrong, Larry
Recent court rulings have basically permitted employers to monitor employees behavior in every way possible, short of placing video cameras inside bathroom stalls. Therefore, employees should realize that everything they do on a company computer, including every email they write and every Web site they visit, can be viewed by their boss. Roughly 75 percent of U.S. firms now monitor employee communications in some way, twice the number only four years ago, according to the American Management Association (AMA). Firms are also increasingly sanctioning those who violate Internet policies, with 45 percent of companies in a recent AMA survey disciplining workers for running afoul of email policies, and 42 percent of companies punishing workers for violating Internet policies. Employers are concerned that workers' Internet ventures may lead to breach of contract, trade secret, defamation, copyright infringement, or sexual harassment lawsuits. Worker productivity is also a concern. Regardless, employees who want to cover their tracks can sign up at ZipLip (www.ziplip.com), which scrambles messages and forces those receiving emails to retrieve them at the ZipLip Web site instead of their own mailboxes, making it impossible to trace them back to the original sender. Encryption programs like HushMail (www.hushmail.com) and Pretty Good Privacy (www.pgp.com) can disguise the contents of an email message, and "anonymizer" Web sites can delete personally identifying information so that Web sites will not know the real identity of the visitor.