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Volume 2, Issue 109:  Friday, September 22, 2000

  • "Intel Warning Could Portend PC Slowdown"
    CNet (09/22/00); Fried, Ian; Kanellos, Michael

    Intel yesterday announced that its sales growth will fall short of expectations in the third quarter, sparking concern among analysts that the entire PC market could be slowing down. Although Intel, a bellwether for the PC industry, attributes the problem to weak sales in Europe, analysts worry that several other factors are also involved. Taiwan has reported sluggish shipments of motherboards for the past month, one analyst says. Moreover, key markets such as the United States and Europe are not showing strong sales growth, while Latin America and Asia drove this year's demand, analysts say. PC sales growth will reach 30 percent this year in Latin America and Asia, but sales will grow just 13.1 percent in North America and 8.4 percent in Europe, says Dataquest analyst Charles Smulders. The U.S. and European markets appear to be saturated, Smulders notes. Still, some analysts remain optimistic about the PC market, saying it is still too early to determine whether this year's overall PC sales growth will fall below traditional growth rates.

  • "Microsoft Can't Lock Up All Online Security Issues"
    Investor's Business Daily (09/22/00) P. A4; Howell, Donna

    Microsoft's new privacy update for Internet Explorer gives users more control over cookies that gather their personal information, but does not address many other online privacy threats. The free update, released three weeks ago in a test version, informs users when a site is sending them a cookie and allows users to decide whether to accept the cookie. However, a design feature called "persistence" in newer versions of Internet Explorer allows Web pages to remember information from online forms the user fills out, and can retain significantly more data than a cookie. Persistence allows sites to remember visitors who have logged off and are returning to the site. Meanwhile, Web bugs are another way that companies can track users' online movements. Web bugs, which appear in email and on Web pages, match the page the user is visiting with the address of the user's connection, culling information on a person's online activities. Web bugs were the focus of a lawsuit filed last week by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon against More.com, and online drug retailer that allegedly used Web bugs and shared private data with a third party without informing customers. Java applets also allow companies to collect consumer information. As technology such as Microsoft's update thwart the ability of cookies to track users, sites and marketers will simply turn to another method of gathering information.

  • "Domain-Name Disputes Get Personal"
    Washington Post (09/22/00) P. E1; Lytel, Jayne

    In metropolitan Washington, D.C., most cases where a domain name are disputed turn out to be some form of cybersquatting, where the domain name of a famous person or a trademark is registered in an effort to make a profit through selling the name. However, there have also been a growing number of cases where regular citizens are having to defend their rights to possess a personal domain name as companies and famous individuals with similar names try to wrest control of the domain from the private citizen in court. For example, last fall the retired U.S. Air Force sergeant who had registered Don-Henley.com received a cease-and-desist letter from musician Don Henley's lawyers, although the former sergeant still has possession of the site. William Hatfield was sued by HQM for the domain name hatfield.com, and although the company lost, it is appealing the court's decision. Archie Comic Publications was going to sue David Sams for registering Veronica.org. Sams registered the name to celebrate the birth of his daughter, and the publication company dropped the suit. Register now if a personal domain name is desired, say legal experts. To avoid receiving a cease-and-desist letter, add the phrase "family" to the domain name, use both a first and last name, or use .net or .org instead of .com when registering a personal domain name, says "The Domain Name Handbook" author Ellen Rony. Telepathy founder Nat Cohen was ordered by an arbitration panel to give the crew.com domain name to J.Crew. "My mother is on a crew team, and that's what I was thinking about," says Cohen.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Senate Grapples With High-Tech 'Labor Gap'"
    Christian Science Monitor (09/22/00) P. 2; Chaddock, Gail Russell

    The high-tech industry, in an effort to bring more foreign workers into the United States to fill tech jobs, continues to pressure lawmakers to pass H-1B legislation with no other immigration amendments and no restrictions on hiring. Congress is divided on the H-1B bill, with Democrats seeking to attach a measure that would provide amnesty to immigrants who already work in the country--although not in the high-tech industry. Republicans oppose the amnesty attachment. Meanwhile, some GOP leaders are supporting a bill written by Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas that eliminates the H-1B visa cap for three years, but calls for hiring limits designed to protect American workers. Smith's bill would require companies to pay H-1B visa holders over $40,000 a year and to hire workers with college degrees. The high-tech industry supports a bill sponsored by California Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D) and David Dreier (R) that would lift the visa cap and place no restrictions on hiring. H-1B action is now shifting to the Senate, with the Information Technology Industry Council on Tuesday issuing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R) saying this year's "high-tech voting guide" will consider even procedural votes on the H-1B issue. Meanwhile, high-tech lobbyists are advising Senate Democrats not to push for amendments that could kill the H-1B legislation. The high-tech industry has considerable leverage with lawmakers, having already donated $22.1 million this campaign cycle, compared to $9.5 million in 1998. Furthermore, observers say the high-tech industry is gaining an important victory in the H-1B debate as its claim of a labor shortage wins widespread acceptance. Although the existence of a shortage is now largely taken for granted in the debate, experts say some evidence suggests that companies are rejecting qualified American workers in favor of H-1B holders who will work for lower salaries.

  • "Companies Tout Latest Privacy Technologies in Washington"
    Associated Press (09/21/00); Hopper, D. Ian

    Congress has apparently resolved to take no action regarding Internet privacy during this session. Meanwhile, more than a score of online privacy bills have been gathering dust in congressional committees since the release of the FTC's financial privacy report in May. That report urged lawmakers to let self-regulation protect the computerized consumer data held by financial firms and other companies. Online privacy legislation is likely next year, as Congress will have more time to examine the issue, says Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology. In the meantime, 19 companies, including the Direct Marketing Association, participated in a privacy fair on Capitol Hill hosted by the Congressional Internet Caucus this week. The fair featured technologies to protect Internet users' privacy. Privacy legislation was recently passed in Canada, Chile, Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania, according to a report released this week by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
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    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "Commerce Department Aims to Keep U.S. in Lead"
    InformationWeek Online (09/20/00); Bacheldor, Beth

    The Commerce Department is taking steps to ensure that U.S. companies have a prominent place in the world Internet economy. Speaking at the Business Council for International Understanding on Tuesday, Robert LaRussa, undersecretary of commerce for international trade, provided the details of a Commerce Department three-step Internet initiative. First and foremost, Commerce wants to begin closing the digital divide in America, a goal that will involve collaboration between the private and public sectors, LaRussa said. The U.S. government also plans to forge e-commerce partnerships with other world governments and will work with these countries to address policy issues related to the Internet, said LaRussa.

  • "Do High-Tech Firms Really Need Imported Workers?"
    USA Today (09/21/00) P. 17A; McNealy, Scott; Miano, John

    Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy believes the United States must continue and expand its H-1B visa program if it wants to remain a competitive force in the new IT-driven global economy. H-1B visas let foreign tech workers remain in the country for up to six years, and McNealy argues the visas are necessary to fill the current shortage of high-tech labor. However, U.S. firms reached the annual limit on the number of H-1B visas issued in March. Furthermore, many workers brought over on the visa must now return to their home countries, depriving U.S. firms of skilled, experienced employees. McNealy cites several technological developments driven by foreign nationals, including the founding of his own company, and argues that Congress must expand the H-1B program, not reduce its scope, and make it easier for H-1B workers to remain in the country once their visas expire. In contrast, software programmer John Miano argues that there is little evidence that the highly publicized shortage of domestic high-tech workers exists. Miano believes U.S. high-tech firms are dependent on the H-1B visa program because it provides them with cheap labor. In fact, Miano points out that the law establishing the H-1B visa permits firms to fire American employees in order to replace them with H-1B workers. He argues that if a high-tech labor shortage did exist, salaries for programmers would be rising more quickly as would the hiring rate for African-American and other minority programmers. He notes that 84 percent of Americans are opposed to the program, but that it continues because it is, as Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said, "a very important issue for the high-tech executives who give the money."

  • "Delivery Dates Set for Next Windows"
    ZDNet (09/18/00); Foley, Mary Jo

    Microsoft has set April 18, 2001, as the release-to-manufacturing date for its new operating system code-named Whistler, sources say, and beta versions of Whistler should appear in October and December. Microsoft did not confirm the final release date for Whistler, saying it will ship the software in the latter half of next year. However, the company did acknowledge that it will release Beta 1 next month. Observers say Whistler will not represent a significant upgrade from Windows 2000. Although Whistler will hint at Microsoft's much discussed .Net strategy, most .Net innovations will not appear until the 2002 release of the Blackcomb operating system. Whistler will feature improved automated system recovery and file-system volume snapshots, CD-ReWritable and CD-Recordable compatibility, and Universal Serial Bus peripheral support. Whistler should be scalable beyond its built-in 8 GB RAM capacity.

  • "Report: U.S. Turning to Non-PC Net Devices"
    E-Commerce Times (09/20/00); McDonald, Tim

    The use of non-PC Internet appliances in the United States is growing at an annual rate of 48 percent, according to a new survey from Media Metrix. Media Metrix said the number of U.S. households owning a non-PC Internet appliance grew from 6.6 million to 7.4 million between April and July of this year, a 12 percent increase. Popular Internet appliances mentioned in the survey include the Palm Pilot, wireless phones, and PDAs. However, analysts note that no one kind of Internet appliance has caught on among users. Analysts have long expected users to turn to Internet appliances because of the expense and complexity of PCs, but that has yet to occur. Sales of Internet appliances such as Netpliance's I-opener and Oracle's New Internet Computer have been slow, mainly because consumers seem unwilling to spend close to $400 for machines that do little more than provide email and a Web browser. Some analysts say new Internet appliances from Gateway and America Online will jumpstart the market.

  • "Digital Whirl Blurs Policies"
    Washington Post (09/20/00) P. G3; Goodman, Peter S.

    The growing presence of the Internet in today's society is complicating policy issues such as privacy, taxation, and intellectual property. Lawmakers, regulators, and judges are grappling with difficult questions as the Internet rapidly introduces new business models, erases geographic boundaries, and enables new technologies. Although the opposing camps on these issues do not fit neatly into categories, political or otherwise, analysts say a split seems to be developing between those who fear the changes the Internet might bring and favor government regulation, and those who focus on the new opportunities the Internet offers and oppose regulation. One of the most controversial Internet issues is online privacy. Privacy advocates argue that consumer information should be protected, and several legislators believe laws should be in place to limit how companies can use customer data. Meanwhile, some privacy opponents such as the Progress & Freedom Foundation believe privacy legislation would allow the government to interfere with technology without bringing any significant benefits to consumers. Another hotly contested Internet issue is online taxation. Online tax supporters believe sales made over the Internet need to be taxed to ensure fair competition between Internet firms and brick-and-mortar companies. Meanwhile, critics argue that online taxation would stifle the burgeoning growth of the Internet and e-commerce. Intellectual property is also creating many conflicts as the Internet allows users to easily share copyrighted materials, as seen in the Napster and MP3.com lawsuits. The recording industry and its supporters say these new technologies threaten the revenues of the entertainment industry, while others contend that the technologies can actually boost revenue by introducing content to more people.

  • "Regulating Privacy: At What Cost?"
    Wired News (09/19/00); McCullagh, Declan

    Libertarians and other opponents of government regulation are slowly losing the battle to forestall privacy regulations, as Congress, responding to public opinion on the issue, is churning out increasing numbers of privacy bills. Libertarian groups such as the Pacific Research Institute and others are redoubling their efforts to shift the momentum back to anti-regulation forces, even as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the ACLU, and other privacy groups continue to press for privacy rules. Indeed, George Mason University's Mercatus Center is slated to host a meeting on privacy today, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute is preparing to release a book that is critical of private-sector privacy regulations. "Government has been one of the biggest violators of privacy, so some libertarians cannot fathom why anyone would think that government should now be trusted to protect it," said Sonia Arrison, director of technology policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Libertarians have also been critical of the FBI's Carnivore system and other forms of government monitoring. EPIC director Marc Rotenberg allows that the government is a "real threat." "But I think increasingly the tools of surveillance will come from the private sector," he says. The Electronic Frontier Foundation favors government regulation because self-regulation "has proven itself to be a huge flop," says the group's executive director, Shari Steele. FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle is a key supporter of the libertarian viewpoint on privacy.

    For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.

  • "W3C Is Moving Aggressively on SOAP"
    TechWeb (09/21/00); Gonsalves, Antone

    A project by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to standardize the SOAP specification submitted by IBM this spring is under way. SOAP is an XML-based cross-platform device that developers can use to write programs that can communicate with applications behind firewalls. SOAP is primed for Internet-like, non-industrial environments. SOAP was proposed a year ago by Microsoft, UserLand Software, and DevelopMentor, while a follow-on specification, SOAP 1.1 was developed and submitted to the W3C by IBM. A working group of 45 companies, including Helwlett-Packard, Intel, and Xerox has been formed to standardize SOAP, and expects to finish the initial specification for it within a year. David Fallside of IBM's standards unit will be the working group's chair. "[The team] has a very aggressive schedule," says IBM's Robert Sutor. "If you look at the charter, they believe they can get this done pretty much within a year, which is extremely fast by W3C standards."

  • "Agencies Struggle to Improve IT Access"
    Federal Times (09/18/00) Vol. 36, No. 33, P. 4; Robb, Karen

    The head of the General Services Administration's IT accommodation division, Martin Kwapinski, hopes the IT industry will agree on interoperability standards for assistive software. Kwapinski believes such a move would make it much easier for government agencies to comply with Section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The law requires that federal offices make their technology accessible to people with disabilities. And as government agencies overhaul their computer equipment and Web sites for people with disabilities, federal offices may have to install technology that is not compatible with the IT systems they already have. Kwapinski says assistive technology is likely to be developed by smaller companies that do not "have the resources to make sure their products are interoperable across every existing platform." The inter-agency Chief Information Officers Council backs Kwapinski in his call for the IT industry and the government to create standards for assistive technology. The GSA will take a step toward the creation of a standard-setting group when it hires a contractor by early October to oversee the task. Federal offices are still awaiting final guidelines on how to install the technology, which should be available by the end of the year. As soon as the guidelines are published in the Federal Register, government agencies are required to comply with them in six months.

    Readers may wish to learn more about ACM's upcoming Conference on Universal Usability: http://www.acm.org/sigs/sigchi/cuu

  • "Give Us Your Skilled and Wired"
    Industry Standard (09/25/00) Vol. 3, No. 38, P. 126; Abramson, Ronna

    Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to raise the number of H-1B visas that allow foreign high-tech workers to enter the United States, but conflicts over other immigration issues have stalled progress on the issue. The visa cap is now set at 115,000 a year, and presidential candidates Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush both support increasing the limit to 200,000. The support of both parties on the H-1B issue is a boon to the high-tech industry, which has been pushing to raise the visa cap for some time. The industry's sway in Congress was evident in the bipartisan support for an H-1B bill in the House, which signed on 83 co-sponsors before disagreements arose over other immigration issues. Gore, along with the Clinton administration and many House Democrats, favors a measure that would provide amnesty to immigrants now living in the country illegally while Republicans oppose the amendments. However, legislators are pressured to act on the H-1B issue as other countries such as Japan and Germany launch their own efforts to attract foreign high-tech workers, and many observers believe legislators will raise the visa cap this year.

  • "Candidates Challenge ICANN Dominance"
    Interactive Week (09/18/00) Vol. 7, No. 37, P. 12; Gruenwald, Juliana

    Critics of ICANN are competing to obtain seats on ICANN's board of directors as a new approach to changing the organization. There are currently 27 candidates trying to fill five available seats. The candidates were either appointed by ICANN's nomination committee or are self-nominated. The self-nominated candidates had to gain the support of 2 percent of the voting population from the region they are to represent, and now join the appointed candidates with only one month remaining before the date the elections are to be held from Oct. 1 to Oct. 10. Many of the self-nominated candidates are concerned that ICANN is not following its original mission or fails to representative a majority of diverse Internet users. Individuals will have a say in the ICANN processes for the first time come October, and the self-nominated candidates such as Karl Auerbach of Cisco Systems who are most critical of ICANN have the greatest support. On the other hand, ICANN is sure that its policies are representative of a majority of online users. Many of the self-nominated candidates are upset that there is only one month left to campaign and that ICANN will not release the list of at-large members. ICANN claims that the list is being withheld to protect the privacy of its members. Although privacy and unsolicited email are valid concerns, "it's awfully hard to conduct a campaign if you have no real way to do outreach," says Wayne State University law Professor Jonathan Weinberg. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Harvard University Law School will run a candidates' debate on Oct. 2, and a similar event handled by the Electronic Frontier Foundation will be held that same week at Stanford. ICANN provided the candidates with Web pages and permits members to ask the candidates questions.
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "False Promise"
    U.S. News & World Report (09/25/00) Vol. 129, No. 12, P. 48; Kelly, Katy

    A petition by child development experts and doctors and a new study from a child advocacy group has renewed the controversial debate over the issue of "screen time" for young children. Mary Pipher, author of "Reviving Ophelia;" Harvard professor of psychiatry Alvin Poussaint; and child and adolescent psychiatrist Marilyn Benoit were among the experts who signed their names to the petition unveiled last week that said there should be an "immediate moratorium" on computer use in early childhood and elementary education until more is known about the effect of the technology on the development of children. Also last week, Alliance for Childhood introduced "Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood," which argued that the health and intellectual and social development of children could be threatened by computers. Educators who have stressed the need for technology in the classroom were angered by the positions taken in the petition and the report. They had already heard complaints from their colleagues that the attention spans of students were getting shorter and that their motivation was declining. The most common arguments made in opposition to screen time are that computers do not offer three-dimensional play, software tends to be drill and practice, computer learning is rote, and the box does not encourage imagination. Some experts add that there are concerns about eye problems and the effects of ergonomic habits on the wrists, arms, and backs of children. Experts tend to disagree on when children should be given screen time, although some favor waiting until they have mastered reading and writing. Experts also favor the introduction of simple functions first, close involvement by parents, computers not located in a child's bedroom, and a continued emphasis on outside play.

  • "UCITA "Rules""
    Government Technology (09/00) Vol. 13, No. 12, P. 74; Warren, Jim

    The Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) is gradually gaining acceptance in some states, but the bill contains many controversial measures that could harm software users. Large software vendors favor the legislation and have launched major lobbying efforts to pass UCITA, which they say will standardize software contracts. Maryland and Virginia have already adopted UCITA and a number of other states are pushing for the legislation as well. However, UCITA has many opponents, and the states that lead in technology, including California, Massachusetts, and Texas, have not even introduced the bill. Other UCITA critics include the attorneys general of many states, major consumer advocacy groups, libraries, publishers, and computer professionals' organizations such as the Association for Computing Machinery. One UCITA provision that opponents object to would allow licensors to unilaterally change contracts after the user has accepted the terms. Critics also note that UCITA would allow vendors to shut off software remotely if they believe the user has violated the contract. In addition, UCITA would enforce click-wrap licenses that allow users to read terms only after buying and launching the software. Buyers must either click to accept the terms of the contract to use the software or return the unused software for a refund. Attorneys general who oppose the bill referred to it as "an open invitation...to exploit our citizens," in a letter written last year to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
    For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "Beyond Geek Chic"
    Computerworld (09/18/00) Vol. 34, No. 38, P. 66; Panepento, Peter

    The first practical article of wearable electronics will hit the European market later this month. Consumers will be able to buy a $900 jacket equipped with a remote-controlled mobile phone and an MP3 player. This jacket, called the Industrial Clothing Design+ (ICD+), is a collaboration between Koninklijke Philips Electronics and Levi Strauss. Philips has other kinds of clothing in development, including a sports bra that can measure the wearer's heartbeat, garments linked to the Global Positioning System, and clothes with conductive fibers that can heat and cool the wearer. The ICD+ line has received a lot of attention, including a write-up in the Wall Street Journal and a rash of media inquiries. The jacket's features include a microphone and earphones in its collar, while a remote control allows users to switch back and forth between a Philips Rush digital audio player and a Xenium phone. A wireless version of the ICD+ is also underway. "We are now pioneering electronics for the new worker," says Levi's Pieter-bas Stehmann. MIT students at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on wearable computer systems, while IBM's Wearable PC compresses the power of a ThinkPad 560X into a device the size of a Palm Pilot. Meanwhile, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and WetPC have designed a computer that can be worn and operated underwater and can transfer data to users on land.

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