Cyber Ramblings - Feb 6, 2001

6 February 2001
Sewer Lines Get Expanded Use with Technology
The subject of flushing the toilet usually doesn’t garner a lot of attention. But then again, how often do companies come out and say they can lay fiber optic cable 60 percent faster than traditional means by simply using the same pipes that carry the nation’s waste. CityNet Telecommunications Inc., a Silver Spring-based firm, claims it can connect hundreds of multi-tenant commercial and residential buildings in months instead of years. Its would also solve the problem of having to rip up city streets in order to lay fiber optic cable. The privately held company is investing $75 million in a fleet of 100 robot systems as network construction begins. The group has acquired its first round of funding of $100 million from Crescendo Ventures; CIBC; and Telecom Partners. It's negotiating its second round now.

Conn. Committee Wants Web Ads Gone
Ever unpopular among users, pop-up Web ads are finding another sector voicing their disdain for the technology. Kathleen Anderson, the chair of a Connecticut government committee charged with ensuring the state-run websites become accessible to disabled residents, is joining the crowd of those unhappy with the ads. She says the ads are confusing to those who use a screen reader to hear content rather than see it on the Internet, such as a blind person. A pop-up ad, which typically takes up a quarter of a page, forces consumers to either act on a promotion or click a button to close the window. To combat this, Anderson and others are fighting back with software and self-styled tricks to keep pop-ups from their screens. Software including Pop-Up Stopper and Banner Catcher has emerged to help consumers fight the advertisements.

Hackers Get Info on Clinton, Others
Just weeks after being out of office, former United States President Bill Clinton’s credit card numbers and other information may have been obtained by computer hackers. Information on over 1,400 prominent people who attended the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, was obtained by computer hackers, according to the forum. The group, which has obtained an injunction to keep any of the information from being spread, maintains that no crucial or sensitive information relating to Clinton was obtained. A Swiss newspaper said its reporters had been shown data on a CD-ROM containing 80,000 pages of information, including information on Clinton, who was the featured speaker at Davos a year ago. The paper said the material had been collected by anti-globalization protesters.

EC Seeking Public Comments
The European Commission is looking for public opinion regarding some of its upcoming plans to deal with online crime. Through the European Parliament, several new proposals were made to create new forums and efforts have been made to get residents more up to speed with the issue. The EC told the parliament that it is seeking a "harmonized policy to combat computer crime and install necessary mechanisms, without hindering the rapid development of e-commerce... and respecting the fundamental right to privacy." Legislative recommendations include setting up specific punishments for child sexual exploitation online as part of a broader package of anti-child pornography measures, as well as new proposals against hacking, denial-of-service attacks and other high-tech crime.

Bill Would Protect Users From Monitoring Software
Privacy rights advocates are again patting Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., on the back. The Senator has again proposed a bill that would uncover spyware programs that are used to encrypt online activity and later share the users information with advertisers and other businesses. Edwards initially filed the Spyware Control and Privacy Protection Act bill in Oct. 2000, but Congress failed to move the bill. Under the proposed legislation, companies that use codes to track the activities of Internet users would have to notify consumers in plain language when the users surf their sites and download information. No information on Internet surfing habits could be collected without first obtaining each consumer's permission, according to the proposal. Businesses that gather data would have to let users know what information has been assembled, provide a way to correct errors and safeguard the data against unauthorized access by hackers.

Question Continue to Arise Over Search Engine Technology
One of the key players in developing the Internet has spoken out about a feud over patents relating to Internet search engines. Alan Emtage of New York had some sharp comments for Alta Vista’s parent company CEO, David Wetherell after an interview with Internet Wold Magazine. Wetherell told the magazine that his company was going to seek legal action regarding the more than 30 patents it has for searching the Web. "We believe that virtually everyone out there who indexes the Web is in violation of at least several of [AltaVista's] key patents," he was quoted as saying. "If you index a distributed set of databases – that’s what the internet is. And even within intranets, that's one of the patents." The notion that Alta Vista has the rights makes Emtage laugh. Emtage is credited for creating "Archie," a search engine that was first released in 1989, and he says Alta Vista is one of many who have violated the spirit of the Internet. "Though I'm not a lawyer, the patents being ‘defended’ by CMGI/AltaVista include basic concepts that were incorporated into the Archie system years before the World Wide Web even existed," Emtage told the magazine. "Archie was crawling and indexed FTP sites with fairly sophisticated algorithms even as I was sitting at Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meetings with Tim Berners-Lee while he created the World Wide Web."

WIPO Busy with Aussie Cases
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which settles domain name disputes, was busy recently with a host of Australian-related cases. The status quo for WIPO, siding with big business and celebrities, remained in tack with the recent round of cases from Down Under. In what is believed to be the first ever "typosquatting" case WIPO ordered Warren Bolton Consulting, a Queensland-based company, to turnover the rights to Telstra argued the site was too close to its own, and therefore should be turned over to them and the Geneva-based body agreed. In another case, WIPO ordered Community Internet (Australia) in Western Australia to hand over the address The domain did not link to an active Internet site and WIPO ruled it had been registered in bad faith. However, Community Internet argued it had purchased the address to keep it safe from cybersquatters. WIPO said that the party had spent "considerable time" registering "vulnerable" domains of companies with which it had "trading relations." Other domains currently registered by Community Internet include,, and In an other recent WIPO judgment, the Sydney Opera House regained control of the domain from Sydney company Trilynx. Like Community Internet, Trilynx argued it was trying to prevent the domain from "falling into the wrong hands."