Cyber Ramblings - July 31, 2001

31 July 2001
New South Carolina Law Raises Major Questions

Tucked into a new South Carolina law on education standards for day care workers is a requirement that private technicians tell police if they find child pornography when servicing computers.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Jim Hodges last week, expands an existing statute requiring photo developers to report film containing images of children that appear to be under 18 in sex acts or in a "sexually explicit posture."

"Now folks who look at this trash on their computers will be caught," Hodges spokesman Morton Brilliant said.

Civil libertarians say conscripting computer technicians into the state's anti-porn efforts raises privacy concerns.

"I don't know how in the world you're going to enforce that," said Herb Buhl, a lawyer with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, which has one of the state's largest private-sector computer networks, will comply with the law, spokeswoman Donna Thorne said. But she added, "I'm not sure its our computer technician's job to be doing law enforcement."

Glitch at Georgia College Leads to Investigation

A state investigation in Georgia has been ordered after college students discovered their Social Security numbers, home addresses and other personal information on the Internet.

The information was inadvertently leaked from a Georgia Student Finance Commission database. Student journalists at Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta found 3,187 pages of personal information on thousands of students attending Georgia schools.

The information was available on the search engine from April until June. The problem has since been fixed.

Gov. Roy Barnes on Thursday called for a state investigation into how the agency accidentally disabled its "firewalls,"' barriers that prevent unauthorized access to a computer network.

Bill to Create .kids TLD Introduced in House

Two U.S. congressmen want the Internet's top standards-setting body to create a "safe space" for children on the Internet before expanding the addressing system beyond incumbents such as ".com" and the seven soon-to-be launched domains such as ".biz."

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., have introduced a bill that would require the quasi-governmental body that administers Internet addresses to create a ".kids" Internet domain.

Shoeless Joe Bat Could Get Record Price on Web

Black Betsy," the favorite bat of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, one of baseball's greatest all-time players, may fetch a record price for baseball memorabilia when it is auctioned on the Internet, the company managing the sale said Tuesday.

The bat is pockmarked and crooked and has a small, jagged crack, but it gets a million-dollar shine from the stories surrounding Shoeless Joe, who's remembered mainly for his banishment from baseball in the "Black Sox" gambling scandal of the 1919 World Series.

"The minimum bid for the bat is going to be $500,000," said Kevin Hammond, CEO of Real Legends auctioneers. "Because it's never been sold before, because it's been retained in the family and because the authenticity of the item is unquestionable, we really don't know where it will wind up," he said.

The bat will be sold on eBay in an ending Aug. 6.

The price could surpass the $1.3 million paid for a Honus Wagner trading card and challenge the record $3.05 million paid for Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball, Hammond said.

Suit Filed against NeuLevel Over '.biz' Handling

Three U.S. law firms have filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court against NeuLevel, the company controlling distribution of the new ".biz" domain name registry.

According to Reuters, the lawsuit alleges that NeuLevel's system for allocating domain names amounts to an illegal lottery because the company is accepting payment from prospective domain name holders without granting them rights to specific domains.

NeuLevel was chosen by the Internet's technical coordination body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to deal with the registration of the new ".biz" domains. The allocation process adopted by NeuLevel is based on parties paying a small fee to reserve a particular domain name during a specified period ending in September. However, applicants are not given any domain name rights until the end of that period and if more than one request has been made for the same domain, then the rights to that domain will be determined by a lottery.

The suit argues that the process encourages applicants to make several applications and payments for each domain name in an attempt to increase their chances of success in the event of the domain names rights being determined randomly--thereby amounting to a lottery.

VeriSign Seeks Help From ICANN in Slamming Issues

VeriSign Inc., which provides trusted infrastructure services for websites, including domain registration services, has brought the issue of unauthorized domain registration transfers to the attention of the ICANN.

In a letter written last week, VeriSign called on ICANN to take a lead in the effort to combat "slamming" practices, as the unauthorized transfers are known in the telecommunications industry.

The request followed a number of market research studies, which were funded by VeriSign in an attempt to determine the extent of the problem. Those surveys revealed that one third of domain registration transfers from VeriSign to rival registrars that were purportedly authorized by customers had been carried out without any customer authorization.

Libel Case Could Hinder Work of Investigative Journalists

An Internet libel case that went before the New York Supreme Court is threatening to curb the freedom of on-line news reporters.

The case was prompted by several investigative reports into the president of the Banco National de Mexico (Banamex), Roberto Hernandez Ramirez.

The reports, posted on the website hosted in New York, alleged that Ramirez was involved in illegal drug trafficking activities. A libel case was brought against the journalists responsible for publishing the articles online, but was dismissed three times by the Mexican courts.

It was then taken to the courts in New York on the grounds that the website's server was based in New York, arguably giving the state's courts jurisdiction over the case.

U.S.-based civil liberties organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation has expressed its concerns regarding the case to the court.

A ruling in the case is not expected until sometime in the fall.