Cyber Ramblings - Nov 14, 2000

14 November 2000
Compiled by Kevin Smith

Aussie Sites to Get Privacy Seal
If new guidelines recommended by a Senate Select Committee on Information Technology go through, Web sites in Australia may soon have to display a privacy seal of approval on them. A new report, "Cookie Monsters? Privacy in the information society," calls for a host of steps in order to protect the privacy of individuals who use digital technologies. The report is the result of hearings that started back in August. The major recommendation is the inclusion of a 'webseal' on Web sites to indicate privacy credentials authorized by the Federal Privacy Commissioner. Displaying the webseal would indicate that the organization provides access to records stored on an individual if requested; that consumers can opt out of any marketing communication; and that a link is provided to the Web site of the Federal Privacy Commissioner.

GPS System Comes to Cell Phones
Sprint may soon be faced with serious consumer concerns about how caller privacy will be affected by the inclusion of Global Positioning System technology in its wireless phones. The GPS system is designed to help track 911 distress call to the exact location, but they have others concerned about the ability of the big telecommunications companies to track people's movements. Wireless phone companies told regulators this week how they will meet the controversial federal requirements to find subscribers' locations, rekindling critics' privacy concerns. Some of the giant telephone companies will be putting Global Positioning System (GPS) chip technology inside their phones. Others will use a method that uses information such as the strength of a cell phone's signal. And some companies simply don't know yet how they will meet federal rules intended to allow wireless 911 distress calls to be pinpointed.

European Legislation Gives Consumers Protection
While consumers' confidence in the Internet continues to ebb and flow, a new piece of legislation may help create business for e-company's in Europe. Anyone buying items over the Internet will benefit from the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, which was introduced last month. Experts believe this is one of the most important pieces of consumer legislation this year and anyone who shops online should be aware of the changes. The most important part of the new legislation concerns fraudulent credit-card use. Under the distance-selling directive, card issuers must now refund any money made from fraudulent or dishonest use of credit and debit cards.

Sealand Is Still Battling British Government
A little man-made island off the East Coast of England is causing big problems for the British government. The Principality of Sealand, along with its citizens, is prepared to launch a commercial operation of its data sanctuary in two weeks or so. HavenCo, a group of local residents and investors, has signed up a handful of customers to its secured managed collocation business. HavenCo will host servers in an environment ensuring that its customers' data is safe and secure away form prying eyes. The security is not just physical - it is also partly due to the "independence" of Sealand and its political system. Crucially, those behind Sealand claim their independence means they will be outside the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government and its email snooping laws. HavenCo hopes to have the issue resolved in time for its launch.

Visa USA Announces Move to Protect Credit Card Numbers
Internet hackers get great thrill in getting credit card numbers from online merchants and holding them hostage for their own gain. For years consumers and companies have been trying new ways to protect account numbers from falling into the wrong hands and Visa USA is trying to do something to fix the situation. Under a new plan, Visa will begin monitoring thousands of on-line businesses that accept Visa transactions to make sure they are in compliance with the company's written security standards. Those standards are built on everyday staples like firewall use, cryptography, and up-to-date vulnerability patching.

The corporation charged with mediating domain name disputes is facing a lawsuit in a Texas district court. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, that manages the domain name system of the internet, is being sued by RegLand Inc., a company that offers domain name registrations to those wanting to pre-register names in the anticipated new top-level domains (TLDs). The lawsuit alleges that ICANN has abused its power. ICANN has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism recently for its business practices. The lawsuit alleges defamation, business disparagement and wrongful interference.

Story Shows Dissension Regarding UK Laws on E-commerce
According to a published report on, a group of British tech companies is pushing the government to reject changes to laws on e-commerce jurisdiction. The Alliance for Electronic Business, which is made up of the Confederation of British Industry among other UK bodies, is lobbying the UK government to reject proposed amendments to the laws on e-commerce jurisdiction. The AEB described the Commission's proposals as "a damaging lost opportunity that will be to the detriment of EU consumers, suppliers and the attainment of the aims of e-Europe." The DTI is expected to be making an announcement shortly.