Cyber Ramblings - Apr 17, 2001

17 April 2001
Compiled by Kevin Smith

US Government Uses Illegal Tracking Software
A new report from U.S. Congress released this week draws some alarming conclusions as to how federal websites track visitors despite policy rules that ban tracking software. The true scope of the problem has not been identified. The report said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could not even determine how many websites it operates, so investigators could not say how many of them might be using the tracking software. The report was culled from 16 agency audits, a third of the audits in the works. The other agencies are expected to release their findings within a few months, said Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Philips Electronics Cutting Jobs
Philips Electronics, Europe's largest electronics maker, plans to slash 6,000 to 7,000 jobs, or about 3 percent of its work force, to offset the impact of a slowdown in demand for its products. The job cuts were announced Tuesday as Philips reported an unexpectedly sharp 91 percent drop in first-quarter earnings and warned it may post a net loss in the second quarter. Net profit plunged to 106 million euros ($93.3 million) in the first three months of the year from 1.14 billion euros in the first quarter of 2000 that included a onetime gain 526 million euros ($463 million). Analysts had expected earnings of between 224 million euros ($197 million) and 330 million euros ($290 million). Overall sales fell 1 percent to 8.2 billion euros ($7.2 billion) due to a slump in prices.

MobileStar Picks IBM to Connect Starbucks
To help meet an agreement with Starbucks to have 2,000 coffee shops enabled with high-speed wireless connections by yearend, MobileStar Network Corp. has announced its selection of IBM to take care of the site surveys, wireline networks and backbone connectivity. The Starbucks contract calls for a total of 4,000 shops to be enabled by MobileStar's 802.11b-compatible technology by the end 2002. Though MobileStar has been deploying both .11b and OpenAir wireless connections in hotels, airports and restaurants since 1997, it only has 170 sites up and running to date. For its part, IBM will do the site survey, the electrical upgrades, the wireless LAN and Ethernet LAN deployment and the T1 connectivity

Foot-and-Mouth Breakout Puts Hitch in UK Mobile Phone Operators' Plans
The five UK-based mobile phone operators have put plans on hold to launch 3G networks. The delays are a direct result of the foot-and-mouth disease breakout and the government’s efforts to restrict activity in rural parts of the country. The restrictions have compelled engineers to focus on locating transmitters in urban areas, according to the operators. The closure of sites in rural areas has also affected the upgrading of masts and maintenance work before GPRS services are launched later in 2001. However, according to the operators, foot-and-mouth disease will not lead to the launch of 3G services, due in mid-2002, being delayed.

Yahoo to Start Charging for Net2Phone Service
Porn didn’t work, so why not turn to the telephone? Trying to find any way to increase its revenues, Yahoo has decided to start charging a fee for its once free service of reading e-mail messages over the phone. The move comes just days after the portal announced it was going to start selling hardcore pornography and other adult materials through its shopping section. That announcement was meet with a great deal of protest from users and the company reneged on the idea. Yahoo would not say what the fee will be for its Net2Phone service, but did say in a notice on the Yahoo by Phone website that it will be available through a monthly subscription. The charges are to begin May 7, though people signed up by then won’t have to begin paying until June 7.

Semel Named New CEO of Yahoo
Yahoo! Inc. named veteran Warner Bros. executive Terry S. Semel as its new chief executive and chairman, hoping the former leader of a traditional media company can help the struggling Internet portal. Current chairman and CEO Tim Koogle will be named vice chairman, a position he is expected to retain until August, and will continue after that on Yahoo's board of directors, the company said Tuesday. The news comes as Yahoo scrambles to cope with the downturn in the economy and a huge drop in Internet advertising. Earlier this month, Yahoo posted its second straight net loss--$11.5 million in the first quarter, or 2 cents a share, compared with a profit of $67.6 million, or 11 cents per share, in the comparable period of 2000--and said it was cutting 12 percent of its work force.

Bush Urged to Name Privacy Czar
A coalition of public policy groups and academics called on the Bush administration to appoint privacy czar to coordinate the issue in the executive branch. The Bush administration so far has had little to say about the raft of data-privacy bills that have been introduced in Congress this year. A White House spokesman didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment to the Associated Press. But the new administration has already signaled that it will not designate a single person to steer its privacy policy, instead leaving the job to staff members in various agencies.

UN Calls for Stricter Domain Laws
The United Nations and its World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are calling for an international set of rules to govern the two-letter domain names for different countries. With nearly 250 country code top level domains (TLDs), such as .us for America, .uk for the United Kingdom and .jp for Japan, and as many sets of guidelines for their use on the Web, an international standard is needed. A set of rules would prevent cybersquatters from undeservedly cashing in on famous or popular TLD names, but some observers are concerned that WIPO may be seeking to protect large companies at the expense of small nations. The new designations would subject national TLDs to the same kinds of regulations that govern the use of more familiar international domain names, such as .com, .net, .org and .edu.