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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 2, Issue 127: Monday, November 6, 2000
- "Salaries for Federal Tech Workers to Increase"
Washington Post (11/04/00) P. A1; Barr, Stephen
The federal government on Friday said it is raising salaries for high-tech employees by as much as 33 percent in an effort to compete with the private sector for skilled workers. The raises will go into effect Jan. 1 and will benefit about 33,000 workers in grades 5 through 12 classified as computer specialists, computer engineers, and computer scientists. By boosting salaries for entry-level to mid-level workers, the government hopes to attract more recent college graduates. In recent years, young tech workers have increasingly passed over government jobs in favor of higher-paying positions at major corporations, dot-coms, and consulting firms. Starting salaries are an average of $12,000 a year lower for government tech jobs than for private sector tech jobs. The difference is as much as $20,000 a year for tech positions that require specialized skills. Although higher salaries will help the government draw more young tech workers, many young workers base job decisions not on pay but on exposure to cutting-edge technology, says Fred Bollerer, an expert on high-tech workforce trends.
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- "Doubts Rain on Silicon Valley"
USA Today (11/06/00) P. 1B; Iwata, Edward
The recent downturn in the high-tech industry has shattered dreams of overnight wealth for Silicon Valley workers, many of whom are now coping with worthless stock options and layoffs. A record 209 initial public offerings have been canceled this year, according to Thomson Financial Securities Data. Furthermore, 22,000 dot-com workers have lost their jobs, primarily in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. About two-thirds of workers in a recent survey of high-tech firms got stock options, usually instead of larger salaries, says compensation firm iQuantic CEO Mark Edwards. At least 70 percent of those stock options are now worth less than the price at which workers could have profited from them, Edwards says. As a result, high-tech workers are putting off major purchases and home sales and prices in Silicon Valley are dropping. Investors, wary of Internet stocks, are branching out their investments. Meanwhile, high-tech workers are aggressively pursuing new job opportunities, sending out resumes and attending job fairs. Despite the recent economic disappointment, Silicon Valley's unemployment level reached a record low of 1.7 percent in September, and the area's tech firms generate $100 billion in revenue annually.
- "Autoworkers to Get AOL"
E-Commerce Times (11/03/00); Regan, Keith
America Online on Thursday announced a deal to provide subsidized Internet access and interactive TV to 300,000 workers at General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler. The automakers' employees can pay $3 a month for AOL's basic Internet service and $5 a month for AOLTV. Workers can also pay $31.95 a month for a combination of AOLTV and Hughes' DirecTV. Daimler-Chrysler CEO Jim Holden says his company wants all of its employees to know how to use the Internet. Meanwhile, GM CEO Rick Wagoner says the Internet access deal is more beneficial to workers than a free PC deal because 75 percent of the company's workers already have PCs. AOL will gain thousands of new customers for its online service and AOLTV, bringing the company as much as $40 million annually in subscription revenue, says Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Bodget. The agreement will also increase AOL's advertising and e-commerce revenue. AOL, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler are also investing in Workscape, which offers corporate portals that give workers access to corporate data from their home PCs.
- "Thieves Take More Than Laptops"
Washington Post (11/06/00) P. A1; Santana, Arthur
Laptop theft is increasingly becoming a major problem for computer owners, and mobile thieves can strike almost anywhere, particularly in hotels and office buildings. By some estimates the crime will cost $800 million this year, and that accounts only for the actual price of the computers. Insurance company Safeware estimates that almost 320,000 laptops were stolen in the U.S. in 1999, as compared to only 208,000 in 1995, and most owners never see them again, as they are easily resold. Corporations can lose millions of dollars worth of data and trade secrets if laptops are stolen and if the data is not backed up. Police suggest that laptop owners write down serial numbers on the computers to make their recovery easier.
- "Moving Beyond '.com'"
Atlanta Journal and Constitution (11/05/00) P. 1A; Geewax, Marilyn
The amount of cyber real estate on the Internet could be increased after a vote this month by ICANN in Marina del Rey, Calif. Some Internet users, frustrated of the overused, overcrowded ".com" domain name, are demanding more than just seven top level domain names. ICANN's 19 board members will approve a number of new domain names at the upcoming meeting, some predict. Users have requested domain names as diverse as ".kids," ".xxx," ".health," ".union," and ".mall" that could become legitimate by early next year. Others oppose additional domain names, but growing problems with this policy around the world are drowning out their protests. Some companies are taking matters into their own hands and creating their own domain names, such as dotTV's purchase of the rights to the ".tv" code from the island nation of Tuvalu. If ICANN approves the creation of only a handful of new domain names at its meeting, business and consumers could go to Washington seeking to overturn the decision, says Name.Space CEO Paul Garrin. The federal government could conceivably take away ICANN's power as a result. Network Solutions was the first company to register commercial online sites per an exclusive contract with the U.S. government in 1994. The phenomenal wave of registrations since then led to the formation of ICANN, which cleared the way for competing domain name registration groups.
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For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html
- "Political Hackers A Growing Threat--Survey"
Newsbytes (11/03/00); Stokell, Ian
Computer hackers with political agendas pose a burgeoning threat to large global companies, according to the annual "Risk Map 2001" survey conducted by security firm Control Risks Group. The survey reported that 12 countries--up from 5 in 1997--represent severe political and security risks to multinational companies. The countries on the list are Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan. Internet-related activism, or hacktivism, typically shows up in the form of espionage, Web page defacements, "denial-of-service" attacks, and virus infections. Proponents of the illegal activity consider it the cyberworld's answer to guerrilla theater, grass-roots organizing, and graffiti.
- "Finding Potential in Computer Security Stocks"
New York Times (11/05/00) P. 3-9; Legomsky, Joanne
The Internet security industry is on the upswing in part because companies are increasing their investments in antivirus software packages. Key security players, such as VeriSign and Check Point Software Technologies, have seen their share prices take a tumble from their 52-week highs, but a number of analysts predict that these companies' revenues and earnings will continue to rise. The expansion of e-commerce depends heavily on Internet security companies, analysts say. E-commerce totals will reach $4 trillion by 2005, according to analysts' predictions. Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Geoff Beard draws a parallel between VeriSign's importance to e-commerce and Cisco Systems' importance to computer networks. "Security is the missing link needed to unlock e-commerce," Beard says. VeriSign's share price is still more than 400 times its estimated 2001 earnings of 34 cents per share, while its annual revenue growth has hovered at 130 percent over two years. VeriSign is a prime player in the authenticated digital signatures market, which will expand by 57 percent a year, according to Salomon Smith Barney analyst Chuck Jones. J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Sterling Auty singles out VeriSign, ActivCard S.A., SonicWall, and InterTrust Technologies as stars in the computer security industry. VeriSign is also a popular stock choice with two investment fund managers, Dennis McKechnie of the Pimco Innovation fund, and Christopher McHugh, manager of Turner Midcap Growth and Turner B2B E-Commerce.
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- "New Zealand: The Overnight E-Commerce King?"
TechWeb (11/03/00); Page, Barnaby
New Zealand IT Minister Paul Swain has announced that New Zealand will lay the foundation for "a predictable, simple, and consistent legal environment for e-commerce." Swain is hoping that the e-commerce rules will allow New Zealand to "build new export trade by being the overnight information-processing partners" for the United States, Europe, and other areas across the globe. New Zealand has a high rate of Internet penetration, and 20 percent of its population consists of young Internet users, according to CM Research. However, New Zealand is losing many of these Web-savvy young people to jobs overseas, according to CM Research, which could prove a hurdle for Swain's plan.
- "Study: Most Net Users Seek Info Over Fun"
NewsFactor Network (11/02/00); Enos, Lori
Approximately 90 percent of home Internet users go online primarily to seek out information or check their email, according to a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Polled Web surfers who mentioned entertainment as one reason for logging on include 51 percent of Americans, 42 percent of Australians, 45 percent of British residents, 46 percent of the French, and 40 percent of Germans, reports PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, respondents who mentioned entertainment as their primary purpose for going online only account for 6 percent in America, 4 percent in Europe, and 2 percent in Australia. "In order to make [the Internet] a viable alternative source for entertainment, broadband access must increase hand in hand with more compelling content," insists Kevin Carton of PricewaterhouseCoopers. More than half of the respondents who download music and streaming video off the Internet would stop doing so if payment was required, the study indicates. About 42 percent of German, American, and British consumers shop online, compared to 27 percent of Australians and 18 percent of the French, according to the survey. The average number of Europeans who bank online is 36 percent, compared to only 28 percent of Americans and Australians who do the same, the survey reports. Users who are online for five or more hours a week spend about 9.4 hours a week consuming other kinds of media, while those who are online less than five hours a week consume other media for about 7.7 hours a week, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates. An increase in the amount of time consumers spend with audiovisual and printed material is a positive development toward future connections between the Internet and more conventional media, says Martryn Mitchell of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- "Europe Going Wireless Crazy"
London Free Press (11/03/00) P. D3; Ward, Kevin
Many telecom companies are spending astronomical amounts to acquire 3G licenses for providing wireless services in Europe, but some industry observers fear that high costs will be passed on to consumers. Michael Bartholomew, the director of the European Telecommunications Network Operator's Association based in Brussels, said that the high costs of the licenses will manifest into an indirect tax added onto services. However, high prices are likely to reduce the appeal of the technology. Bartholomew also expressed concern that funds raised from European UMTS auctions are likely to be used on non-telecom matters, which could result in Europe losing its lead in wireless developments. Before the auctions began, governments did not anticipate such extraordinarily large bids. Britain, for example, raised more than 10 times the amount it had forecast from its auction. But excluding Germany, many other countries have not fared as well. Canada currently plans to conduct its auction of 56 licenses in January. Some industry observers expect the Canadian auction to only raise between $3 billion and $5 billion. Despite the criticism of some industry observers, Earl Hoeg of Industry Canada maintains that auction is the best method to allocate the licenses. Hoeg added that bidders are more likely to offer more realistic bids for Canadian licenses because they will have to sell new services at competitive prices to be successful. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and many of Canada's leading telecom firms have supported the use of an auction process in the country.
- "TRUSTe to Launch EU Safe Harbor Seal"
TheStandard.com (11/01/00); Perine, Keith
The safe harbor privacy agreement between the United States and the European Union went into effect Wednesday, and privacy seal program TRUSTe has chosen to mark the occasion by introducing the EU Safe Harbor Privacy Seal. TRUSTe said the seal will help "globalize privacy protection and alternative dispute resolution." TRUSTe is positioning itself to certify Web sites' compliance with the safe harbor deal, even though the FTC will enforce the agreement. TRUSTe also intends to offer a scheme for resolving privacy disputes, be they online or offline. "Realizing the promise of the Internet must not come with the risk of privacy loss," said TRUSTe President Bob Lewin. Meantime, Congress appears ready to introduce sweeping privacy legislation during the next session. Many privacy advocates in the U.S. hold up EU privacy rules as a model for which U.S. privacy laws should be based.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "UK Is the Most Connected Country in Europe, Says Report"
Net Imperative (11/02/00); McQuay, Martha
The United Kingdom leads Europe with 29.6 percent of households accessing the Internet, in contrast to Germany with 25.7 percent, and 17.5 percent in France, according to research by NetValue. NetValue determined that 71.6 percent of Internet users accessed the Web at home during September, while 42.7 percent accessed the medium at work. Email use is healthy in Britain, with 60.6 percent of Internet users using the medium for communicating with others. However, the study also found that users in Hong Kong used an average of 3.8 different protocols while online--for example, email, chat, and video streaming, in contrast to only three in the United States. Sixty-three percent of Hong Kong users also reported having used instant messaging at least once in September.
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- "Yahoo & AOL's Dominance in Europe to Be Short-Lived--Report"
Newsbytes (10/31/00); Dennis, Sylvia
America Online and Yahoo! should not become too accustomed to their perch atop the European Internet portal market, a new report from Forrester Research warns. The "Europe's Portal Squeeze" report predicts that AOL and Yahoo! will continue to dominate the short-term battle for portal share but will eventually begin losing ground to marketers, who will make inroads in the form of specialist sites, marketing services providers, and other platforms. "The next 10 portals by traffic, like World Online and AltaVista, will fight for top spots but will suffer from undifferentiated offerings and lack first-mover advantages," said Forrester analyst Hellen Omwando. AOL's ISP business will attract automatic portal traffic, while Yahoo! will be able to count on its brand and partners to do the same. Meanwhile, Forrester predicts that only three local European portals--Terra Networks, Wanadoo, and T-Online--will ultimately survive in Europe. Second-tier market players will eventually come to a crossroads where they will be forced into "courting top tiers for acquisition or refocusing their business models on access, consolidating with peers, or simply folding," Omwando said.
- "Legitimate Concerns Vs. Free Speech: Who Defines the Rules for the Net Ring?"
InfoWorld (10/30/00) Vol. 22, No. 44, P. 87; Foster, Ed
Large corporations are using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to censor those who pose even questionable threats to their intellectual property, writes InfoWorld's Ed Foster. AT&TAtHome, for example, shut down several Wesley Internet accounts for showing information to cable partners that the public was not meant to see. Foster questions the constitutionality of AtHome terminating Web sites on other services. Furthermore, Sega of America recently forced hacker site Isonews.com to remove a forum on the Sega Dreamcast, despite the fact that Isonews contains no known links to pirated material. Sega's success indicates that even discussing piracy is a violation of intellectual property law. Foster is also concerned about Digital Convergence's attempt to place limits on the use of its CueCat device retroactively after mailing the device to consumers. In these situations, courts might be able to strike a fair balance between free speech and protection of intellectual property, but the DMCA gives intellectual property holders wide-ranging power to censor alleged infringers by forcing Internet service providers to close their accounts. Although the DMCA allows for an appeals process, appealing a counterclaim could require vast resources and having an account closed could cause immense financial damage. Intellectual property holders might gain even stronger powers of censorship with the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act, Foster says.
- "E-Mail's Popularity Creating a Glut of Legal Issues"
Network World (10/30/00) Vol. 17, No. 44, P. 58; Fontana, John
Corporate liability is likely to increase as more business functions move online, experts say. Ken Shear of Electronic Evidence Discovery warns that email is now a major corporate liability problem and that companies must have clear deletion and retention policies, with technology that automatically enforces such policies if possible. The policies should be created by the email administrator, human resources executives, and corporate legal departments. Email policies should compartmentalize the varying types of emails that employees generally write, ascertain how long each type of email should be saved, and then save them in a central archive that can be indexed and searched easily. Companies such as Authentica, Disappearing, Interosa, and ZipLip provide various programs that can keep email safe from prying eyes and destroy any record of messages by allowing the sender to program in an expiration date.
- "Guidelines for Section 508 Expected by January"
Government Computer News (10/23/00) Vol. 19, No. 31, P. 8; Orr, Tony Lee
The federal Access Board is due to issue guidelines in January 2001 to help agencies comply with the Section 508 directive. This directive requires that disabled users be able to access IT. Board accessibility specialist Doug Wakefield says that agencies will have six months after the guidelines are issued before the directive goes into effect. However, Wakefield says agencies do not have to wait until the final guidance is issued to begin making sure that their Web sites and other systems are accessible. Wakefield says that agencies must basically make sure that their IT is available to those without vision and those without hearing. However, the board wants to define how much accessibility is suitable. Wakefield says, "Accessibility may be in the eye of the beholder," and notes that the question may boil down to whether a disabled person can access and use a program. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is working on establishing metrics that would remove any uncertainty. Sharon Lakowski, manager of the institute's visualization and usability group, says that design and performance must be considered when studying accessibility. Factors such as a Web page's design and a disabled users' ability to complete tasks to his or her satisfaction could be a basis for judging accessibility, Lakowski says. She suggests performance-based user testing to work toward a common industry format.
- "Instantly Growing Up"
Time (11/06/00) Vol. 156, No. 19, P. 77; Greenwald, John
Instant messaging is moving beyond its consumer base and into the business world, with an estimated 20 million U.S. workers regularly using the technology. Although proprietary software such as Lotus' Sametime accounts for some instant messaging in the workplace, many workers are downloading software such as America Online's Instant Messenger (AIM) on their own instead of waiting for their companies to implement a system. At least some workers at 90 percent of major U.S. corporations will use instant messaging by 2003, Gartner Group estimates. Instant messaging allows workers to immediately see who else is online and to chat without waiting for co-workers to return phone calls or email messages. Organizations using instant messaging include the U.S. Navy, FAO Schwartz, and Sprint, which uses Bantu's messaging software to let workers communicate as they view PowerPoint presentations. However, instant messaging faces a number of challenges, primarily in making various different systems compatible with one another. AOL, which now holds a 90 percent share of the instant messaging market, faces mounting pressure to open its systems to competitors such as Microsoft and Yahoo!. AOL has licensed its protocols to several companies such as Lotus, Lycos, and Apple, but has blocked rivals that try to link to its systems without permission. However, the FTC might require AOL to open its instant messaging systems as a condition for approval of its proposed merger with Time Warner. Although observers agree that compatibility is essential, agreeing on a unified standard for instant messaging systems is proving to be a difficult task.
- "The Speed of Light"
Computerworld (10/30/00) Vol. 34, No. 44, P. 78; Matlis, Jan
Researchers are trying to substitute light for electrical voltages as a way to bypass the limits of miniaturization and make digital optical computing a reality. "What we are accomplishing in the lab today will result in the development of superfast, superminiaturized, superlightweight and lower-cost optical computing and optical communication devices and systems," claims Donald Frazier of NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. Digital optical computing promises parallelism and switching speeds that far surpass the capacity of today's parallel computers. Complex modeling programs such as those used to predict weather already fulfill the power requirements for optical computing, and long-term space flights and satellites will employ digital optical devices, predicts physicist Hossin Abdeldayem at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Hybrid electro-optical computers are the first step toward all-optical computing, and designers are working on free-space backplanes that create connections through optical signals in massively parallel computers. Optical switching devices have eliminated the need for optical-to-electrical signal translation, making terabit speeds on the Internet possible. But electronics-free logic gates and bistable devices are still being designed, and miniaturized computers cannot handle the power requirements of the laser pulses necessary for optical computing. Researchers are investigating organic substances with binary transitions and fast switching speeds, and IBM's Almaden Research Center reports the achievement of 100 picosecond rates. Abdeldayem is experimenting with laser-pulse driven, 1-micron thick organic films that run at pico- and femtosecond rates, while his "nand" gate could create all the Boolean logic that computers use. Some scientists believe that the direction of polarized light could form the ones and zeros of an optical computer's logic system, while crystals or holograms could store information. All-optical computers will not hit the market for another 10 years, says Abdeldayem, who harbors concerns that U.S. investments in research and development are lagging those of Japan and Europe.
- "Who Knows?"
Interactive Week (10/30/00) Vol. 7, No. 4, P. 102; Brown, Doug
As the federal government moves its agencies and services online, the personal information of citizens is being placed in a digital environment in which the records are easily accessible to all. Privacy advocates are not only concerned about this development, but they are also worried about the prospect of the federal or state governments selling the personal information of citizens to private industry. Image Data has been involved in a high-profile case in which the company tried to strike a deal with South Carolina and Florida in order to buy their database of driver's license information, including the photographs of drivers. Image Data wanted to sell access to the database to retailers. However, the deal fell through when residents of the two states discovered that the Secret Service was involved in the deal and had plans of creating a nationwide database using driver's photos. What makes the episode even more troubling is the fact that Congress had just passed the Drivers Privacy Protection Act at the time. Congress would later prohibit states from selling driver's license information to third parties. Ari Schwartz, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology, says Americans tend to be more concerned about what the government is doing with their personal data. The reaction to a proposal that would have banks create dossiers on their customers so that federal banking authorities could monitor unusual banking activity is another example of public concern. "The government performs services, and to perform them, they need information," says Schwartz. "They should be the ones least willing to sell information for public services, because it destroys trust in good government, and it destroys privacy to the extreme."
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Presidential Advisor to Address Upcoming ACM Conference on Usability"
Presidential advisor Tom Kalil is slated to open the ACM Conference on Universal Usability (Nov. 16-17 in Arlington, VA). This unique conference was established to offer solutions for making information and communications technology available at low cost, while improving the quality of service. Organizers seek to reduce system complexity and user frustration as well as increase the utility and comprehensibility of services for low-income and poorly educated users.
For more information on this conference, visit http://www.acm.org/sigchi/cuu.