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Volume 2, Issue 93:  Monday, August 14, 2000

  • "California Lawmakers Take on Net"
    San Jose Mercury News Online (08/10/00); Jordan, Hallye

    California lawmakers are currently debating such Internet issues as privacy and taxation. Dozens of Internet-related bills that limit online companies and providers from sharing or selling users' personal information without permission have been stalled. At this session of the California legislature, 258 such bills were introduced, in comparison to only five in 1994. Bills to protect consumers from having their private information stolen by hackers were being blocked by business interests. Industry lobbyists blocked a bill that would have prevented banks from disclosing private information without a customer's permission, while the credit bureau and health plan industries killed a bill that would have banned the use of Social Security numbers as identification and the credit bureaus' selling of personal information without client authorization. SB 1599, proposed by Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Redondo, Beach), would prevent companies such as TiVo and WebTV from monitoring viewers' preferences, but this bill was also stifled. Internet companies argue that such legislation should be at the federal level instead of the state level, citing the danger that state laws might conflict with government laws. However, others say state action on the issue will help jump-start federal action. Getting the most attention by California's lawmakers is AB 2412, proposed by assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco). The bill would require California stores to charge sale tax on merchandise advertised on the Web. Assemblyman Jim Cunneen (R-Campbell) opposes the bill, claiming it is a sneaky way to tax the Internet that, when complemented with the proposed privacy bills, will undermine the economic benefits California has enjoyed through online companies. Another high-priority debate is "opt-in"--the requirement for a customer's permission for a online company to disclose personal data--versus "opt-out," whereby disclosure is automatic unless the customer notifies the company otherwise.
    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Sound Waves Could Help Ease Web-Fraud Woes"
    Wall Street Journal (08/14/00) P. B1; Sapsford, Jathon

    Israeli startup ComSense Technologies recently unveiled a card that uses ultrasonic signals to verify Web users' identities, thus decreasing the amount of fraud in e-commerce. The card, which also demands a password as an extra precaution, sends sound waves that tap into personal data stored on a server that verifies a person's identity and credit standing. The server then sends the e-merchant a coded confirmation signal instead of a credit card number, which is a green light to continue the transaction. ComSense is marketing the card to credit card companies and banks, and has lobbied credit card companies such as Visa to install computer chips, small batteries, and speakers in their cards, so that the system can work. Although the technology is still unproven, Visa is currently testing it. However, other biometric technologies, such as iris or fingerprint scanners that provide user authentication, may compete with ComSense's product.

  • "Delegates Heading Into Cyberspace"
    New York Times (08/14/00) P. A15; Wayne, Leslie

    The Democratic National Convention, which opens today in Los Angeles, will prominently feature technology. Internet kiosks will be available on the convention floor and at delegates' hotels, and the delegates themselves will each have a smart card giving them access to important news and instructions. Speakers will take part in online chats, and interested viewers can watch events from a 360-degree camera streaming footage to the convention's official Web site. Although party officials stress that the technology is meant both to ease logistical problems and to showcase Democrats as the party of the future, a few critics question the real purpose of the convention's high-tech focus. "All this technology is not so much to solicit opinions of delegates as it is to tell them what to do and what to say," says Marion Just of Harvard University.

  • "Legal Tips for Your 'Sucks' Site"
    Wired News (08/14/00); Cisneros, Oscar S.

    Web sites criticizing corporations are abundant, and although some are successful and many are careful to follow all the relevant rules and laws, the smaller critical sites must remain ever vigilant to ensure larger corporations have no legal reason to shut them down and despite this vigilance could face costly lawsuits. A site that criticizes a corporation and also uses that company's trademark as part of its domain name must make sure there is no possibility that consumers could become confused and believe the site is affiliated with or sponsored by the company that is being disparaged, says Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Robin Gross. A small disclaimer is insufficient, says Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich attorney Mark Radcliffe. Criticism sites must also be wary of trademark dilution, where a trademark is "tarnished" by negative associations, such as sexual material or material associated with drugs. Through the Copyright Act of 1976, copyrighted material can even be utilized through the concept of fair use. The copyrighted work must be altered so that it is a new form that says the same thing as the original version, says Radcliffe. Sites can also use parody when disparaging a company, as long as the original work is parodied and, again, changes are made, says Radcliffe. Sites must watch out for material that infringes copyright law posted to the site by other entities, says Radcliffe. When poor material is posted to the site, there are limitations on liability that can protect a site included in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, however this legal material can be difficult to understand and requires that multiple rules and regulations be followed. Opinions are a final area where Internet sites that criticize corporations have some sway. The trick is to make sure the opinions do not cross over into the realm of defamation, where false information is posted, says Jay Chadwick, an attorney that specializes in defamation law.

  • "Software Licensing Proposal Eased"
    Computerworld Online (08/09/00); Thibodeau, Patrick

    The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) will not enact the self-help provision of the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) that would have allowed software vendors to disable end users' copies of their products. The provision was meant to protect vendors from users who violate their licensing agreements in some way. Many users worried that they would be at the mercy of software vendors. However, although NCCUSL ended the self-help provision for mass-market software, it did not revoke the self-help provision that applies to customized software for corporate users, causing much controversy among executives. Many CIOs believe that UCITA will compromise their networks' security and give vendors too much leverage during negotiations. However, as of now, only Maryland and Virginia have made UCITA law. Meanwhile, UCITA critics say there are still other issues with UCITA, and NCCUSL's Carlyle Ring says other changes to UCITA are possible.

  • "Clinton: Disabled Can Fill IT Jobs"
    Government Computer News (08/07/00) Vol. 19, No. 22, P. 1; Britt, Julie

    President Clinton on July 26 issued an executive order that requires federal agencies to use information technology to accommodate workers with disabilities. The order calls on agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over the next five years. Agencies also must consider offering telecommuting as an option for disabled employees. Resources for people with disabilities, such as information about job opportunities and IT career development, will be available on a new government Web site. Clinton also stressed the importance of assistive technologies such as speech recognition software to make IT more accessible to disabled workers. The order calls for agencies to make all of their Internet and intranet services accessible to the disabled by July 27, 2001. Meanwhile, all agencies are required to submit plans for boosting employment opportunities for disabled workers to the Office of Personnel Management within 60 days of the order.

  • "The Politics of Entertainment"
    Industry Standard (08/14/00) Vol. 3, No. 30, P. 67; Wasserman, Elizabeth

    The entertainment industry, including big companies and trade groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), want Congress to crack down on Internet copyright infringement. The industry has contributed over $15.5 million to federal parties and candidates this election cycle. And the courts are seeing part of the copyright war as well, such as the RIAA's case against Napster and the MPAA joining with eight film studios against the hackers who unraveled DVD encryption. Both of these cases involve the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which was heavily influenced by the industry. Jack Valenti of the MPAA says he is satisfied with the act's copyright law, but his group reserves the right to ask Congress for more legislation if the act does not win out in court. The MPAA may yet want a law that would require electronics and computer manufacturers to include antipiracy technology in their products--something the manufacturers do not want to do. Manufacturers in turn have contributed $13.5 million to politicians and parties this year. Congress appears to be holding off on further legislation; Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), both major players in copyright legislation, were recently flooded with over 70,000 emails from Napster and MP3.com users, asking them not to shut down those services. The two legislators have threatened to have Congress impose a single fee for writers, performers, and record companies if the industry does not respond to consumers' wishes for reasonably priced downloadable digital music.

  • "New Software-Licensing Legislation Said to Imperil Academic Freedom"
    Chronicle of Higher Education (08/11/00) Vol. 46, No. 49, P. A47;Foster, Andrea L.

    The heavily criticized Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) is now under fire from university professors and librarians, who say the measure stifles academic freedom. UCITA, designed to make shrink-wrap and click-on software contracts enforceable, has already been approved by Maryland and Virginia and other states are considering the bill as well. Under UCITA, companies could enforce license terms that prohibit customers from maligning a product publicly. Therefore, professors could be open to lawsuits if they distributed digital photos as part of a lesson and commented to students on the poor quality of the photos, for example. If vendors write contracts that spell out how content may be used, UCITA could restrict a professor's ability to use or distribute copies of articles or a library's ability to exchange and archive materials. In addition, UCITA could significantly increase the cost for libraries and colleges to acquire and preserve materials, because the institutions' lawyers would need to carefully sort through the terms of various shrink-wrap licenses. UCITA's most outspoken opponents, the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries, contend that the bill contradicts federal copyright provisions that permit the preservation of information, fair use, and first-sale. Meanwhile, UCITA supporters argue that the bill does not override most state and federal consumer-protection laws, and that public criticism of software would still be allowed because fair use and fair comment would probably supersede contract provisions. Furthermore, the bill's supporters say a comment added to UCITA would make invalid any license terms that outlaw quoting from digital materials for educational purposes or that prevent non-profit libraries from archiving materials, unless there was a significant commercial need to do so.
    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "Should We Really Be Asking the Federal Fox to Guard the Online Privacy Henhouse?"
    InfoWorld (08/07/00) Vol. 22, No. 32, P. 79; Vizard, Michael

    InfoWorld editor-in-chief Michael Vizard believes now may be the time to form an independent government body to create and enforce a privacy policy for the Internet. After all, allowing the government to create a privacy policy for the Internet when it has a vested interest in violating it, he says, is like asking a fox to guard a henhouse. The government has already spent years trying to limit encryption technologies so it can track criminals who use the technology. The government has also developed Carnivore technology so it can track an individual's email messages across multiple Internet service providers. "Clearly, there is going to be a requirement to give individuals some reasonable expectation of privacy on the Internet," writes Vizard, adding that having Congress create an impartial organization exclusively dedicated to setting privacy policy would be the challenge. Vizard envisions a body that would be similar to the Federal Reserve Board in that there would be no doubt that it is independent of the government, and would be placed beyond the reach of politicians who have to answer to the whims of their constituents. The head of the privacy body would be nominated by the president and confirmed by Congress for a six-year term. Privacy, a commodity more precious than money, deserves such standards, Vizard contends.

  • "Cash for Code"
    Business 2.0 (08/08/00) Vol. 5, No. 15, P. 192; Tweney, Dylan

    Open source projects could soon become financially rewarding for programmers with the help of companies such as Asynchrony.com. Asynchrony offers an online meeting place for independent, open source programmers to collaborate on potentially marketable software. Programmers complete projects in teams, and then hand the software over to Asynchrony for testing, packaging, and marketing. Asynchrony takes anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of the proceeds, dividing the rest of the revenue among team members according to each developer's previously negotiated share in the project. The company rewards programmers with additional shares in the project for discovering glitches, encouraging developers to create high-quality products. Once a project is finished, Asynchrony offers the software as shareware, releases it as commercial software certified by Asynchrony, or licenses it to third-party software publishers. Asynchrony says its model of creating software preserves the benefits of the open source model--high standards of quality, distributed teams, and personal responsibility--while also offering monetary benefits to programmers.

  • "Europe's Dot.Bombs"
    Economist (08/05/00) Vol. 356, No. 8182, P. 20

    European dot-coms are facing hard times, with many collapsing while others are merging into larger organizations in an effort to stay afloat. The economic environment and European Internet startups' current hardships provide Europe as a whole with potential benefits as well as dangers. The current economic woes that have beset many European Internet companies will separate the wheat from the chaff, and those that are doing well will consolidate, resulting in companies that are pan-European in scope. This trend toward pan-European companies could potentially make large gains possible for the European economic environment, especially through the B2B market. These larger European Internet companies also would be better suited to fighting off aggressive American firms. Further, those traditional companies that did not join the initial rush to get online will have a second opportunity to do so, and for lower prices. One disadvantage to the current situation facing European online companies is the possibility of American venture capitalism disappearing almost as quickly as it appeared. European venture investors might resort to old-fashioned methods of building businesses instead of continuing to follow the American start-up model. Indeed, one of the most prominent dangers of the limping European Internet economy is the possibility of a return to the more traditional, cautious methods of doing business. Europe would do well to establish more risk takers and to give some failed Internet entrepreneurs a second chance.

  • "Clearer Fuzzy Product Quests"
    Interactive Week (08/07/00) Vol. 7, No. 31, P. 18; Cleary, Mike

    A National Retail Federation (NRF) project might soon allow consumers to use common-sense descriptors when searching the Internet for desired products, making it easier to find a "fuzzy" sweater or "plush" towel. The NRF is designing a product attribute system (PAF), more simply described as a shared language. XML tags would be attached to the product descriptions in company databases' product listings. The PAS would likely be owned and controlled by the NRF. Those interested in the NRF's new language include manufacturers, large and medium sized retailers, consulting firms, and malls as well as business-to-business suppliers that provide inventory and supply chain management products, says the NRF's Cathy Hotka. Retailers and manufacturers would both appreciate the new search capabilities because customers would be drawn to retailers' stores and manufacturers' products would be easier to locate. Meanwhile, consumers will like the new search capabilities because it will simplify movement between online retailers, says International Data analyst John Williamson. Within weeks, NRF officials intend to offer an initial outline of the project to retailers, and are optimistic about starting the service in January as a pilot program. NRF officials are first working to resolve details with member retailers, and then will solicit popular portals such as Yahoo!. AltaVista, and America Online. The biggest obstacle is determining which product names to use, as most businesses and consumers have different titles for the same concepts.

  • "IT Speeds Delivery of Web Orders"
    Computerworld (08/07/00) Vol. 34, No. 32, P. 1; King, Julia

    E-commerce is transforming the way in which retailers fulfill their customers' orders. New systems, often powered by XML technology, are eliminating back orders, cutting inventories, lowering costs, and reducing delivery cycles to as little as one day. The key to these new systems is automation. "The real nirvana is to have machine-to-machine communication, or in essence, removing manual intervention at as many steps as possible," explains Aberdeen Group analyst Tim Minahan. The new systems are sure to satisfy customers, many of whom have concerns about online deliveries. A BizRate.com survey taken in December found that 8.8 million online orders were either late or unfulfilled. Now, however, a customer can go into a Best Buy store, order a customized laptop from a Web kiosk, and know that the computer company is beginning work on that laptop immediately. Retailers also love the possibilities that the new systems allow. VarsityBooks has combined its e-mail system and its inventory database to create a notification system. Not only does it provide customers with up-to-date information on when their textbooks will be shipped, it also improves VarsityBooks' efforts to track both their sales and their customer base. Fossil can now extend its holiday offers almost to the holiday itself, thanks to its Web-based next-day delivery offer. E-commerce may not provide instant delivery, but its clearly approaching the next best thing.

  • "To B2B or Not to B2B"
    Business Week--Frontier (08/14/00) No. 3694, P. F36; Ferguson, Kevin

    Unlike large scale business-to-business (B2B) exchanges, small-business exchanges are finding that e-communication, and not e-commerce, is at the root of their success. Small business-oriented, industry-specific B2B sites offer an invaluable service to small firms: the exchanges shoulder the administrative and programming responsibilities of e-business, while buyers and sellers not only display and view products and arrange for largely offline transactions, but also consult with each other. Unlike big-business exchanges, small-business exchanges sustain themselves with advertising, usage charges, and technology licenses, not transaction fees. Small business-oriented exchanges still must clear such hurdles as too many suppliers, unautomated systems, and small businesses fiercely loyal to their distributors, but proponents say the benefits abound. Back-office procurement savings for buyers and access to new markets for sellers are among the advantages touted.

  • "The Net Effect on Politics"
    InfoWorld (08/07/00) Vol. 22, No. 32, P. 10; Jones, Jennifer; Trott, Bob

    Technology and the Internet have become essential tools for the 2000 elections--more voters are online, and technology is changing the way the media covers politics and the way the public perceives politics. E-the-people.com is an indication of the Internet's influence on politics. The grass-roots political site allows users to discuss issues, sign petitions, and contact elected officials; it had ongoing coverage of the Republican convention, and intends to cover the Democratic convention as well as providing real-time information through the election in November. The demand for fast information has helped create a new market around the political process. Thin-client computing structures and wireless email units were in use at the GOP convention so MSNBC could pass questions from its Internet office directly to the convention. The Commission on Presidential Debates is working with Harris Interactive, AT&T, 3Com, and Sun to allow Internet users to send in topics for candidates' debates. A study from Juno Online Services and E-advocates indicates that nearly half of all voters plan to use the Internet to help them choose for the election; meanwhile, 64 percent of Internet users say they would trust online information more than they would data from TV. According to E-advocates, citizens want to use the Internet to contact representatives, agencies, and officials. E-advocates' Pam Fielding says citizens will expect more government services to be available online while industry players will be monitoring government attempts to regulate the Web.

  • "The New Remedies"
    OnTheInternet (08/00) Vol. 6, No. 1, P. 35; Been, Carol Anne; Maher, David W.

    The Dispute Policy of Network Solutions (NSI) is no longer being used following the implementation of ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, which provides new remedies for the registration and use of second-level domain names in the Internet's domain name system. NSI adopted ICANN's new policy soon after it was implemented, and immediately stopped utilizing the older contract in domain name disputes. Domain names on hold under NSI's original policy are currently being reactivated. The primary difference between ICANN's new policy and the one NSI had formulated is that an entity in possession of a trademark is not required to own the trademark registration for the mark incorporated in the domain name that the trademark owner objects to. Another difference is that the domain name will remain in status quo until any dispute is resolved, and the administrative decision in a dispute is final rather than suspended until resolved elsewhere. ICANN's new rules are intended to be quick and inexpensive, can be conducted online via email, and require very little documentation. The new policy excludes cases where there are simultaneously lawful uses of a domain name that have yet to be addressed, and the policy does not yet apply to registrations in any ccTLD, save for a small few.

  • "Look Ma, No Wires"
    Silicon India (07/00) Vol. 4, No. 7, P. 32; Nijhawan, Vinit

    Wireless technology is one of fastest growing industries in the world. Mobile voice technologies gain much of the credit for the industry's growth. When the FCC awarded the 800 MHz band for mobile communications during the late 60s, it spurred the growth of wireless technology that is now flourishing. AT&T was one its first major contributors to its growth. The company first proposed an advanced mobile phone system (AMPS) concept in 1971. During the 1980s AT&T had the technology ready for deployment, but was not permitted to manufacture the equipment because of restrictions regarding the company's landline phone monopoly. The eventual progression of the technology lead to the eventual creation of a second generation standard for mobile technology called IS-136, which can be used with TDMA-based services. Currently, the latest standard, IS-96, which uses CDMA, is gaining popularity in the United States in opposition to the GSM standard. The United States, Europe, and Japan are carrying on discussions in hopes of adopting one uniform standard that will be used for third-generation wireless technologies. Many expect this standard to be W-CDMA. Despite the struggles to adopt a universal standard many wireless technologies are experiencing record growth. The worldwide wireless LAN market is expected to increase to $1.63 billion in 2005 from $305 million in 1998. Although several standards have been introduced to provide wireless LAN interoperability, none has yet lived up to its billing. Bluetooth, which promises to offer wireless communication between laptops, PDAs, and mobile phones, is likely to replace many devices using iRDA infrared transmissions. And the emerging WAP standard hopes to provide Internet content for Web phones.

  • "Convergence Migration: Tomorrow, Tomorrow"
    Business Communications Review (07/00) Vol. 30, No. 7, P. 64; Krapf, Eric

    Several companies have begun the shift to a converged voice and data infrastructure. Some enterprises, particularly smaller companies and institutions, are beginning to use convergence in the LAN and throughout the wide area. Despite such implementation, voice and data integration is still in the beginning stages. Enterprise network managers expect to integrate voice and data on their networks in the near future, but are not making any major moves toward immediate convergence. Key hurdles to wide-area voice and data convergence are traditional long-distance carriers' lower prices and QoS issues, says Infonetics Research's Jeff Wilson. Circuit-switched service may have an impact on wide-area packet-voice services, but should not be a critical issue for IP telephony that resides in the local area. A study by The Phillips Group-InfoTech conducted last year indicated that trials of voice and data convergence technology may increase by next year, but the majority of companies may not implement such technologies until two years from now. It will be some time before customers trust the reliability of convergence technologies, says The Phillips Group's Terry White. Another issue is that single-vendor solutions will develop for consistent QoS, White says. The Phillips Group is conducting another study that will determine what affect single vender solutions, versus standardization, will have on companies' decision-making on convergence technology. An additional factor that may slow embracement of convergence may be a discord between available gear and the most likely subscribers.

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