Cyber Ramblings - Sep 19

19 September 2000
Florida Dot-Coms Join Forces to Protect Revenues
Executives from 12 Florida-based Internet companies launched a statewide trade represent the interests of Internet businesses dealing with state and local governments. The group's mission will be to interact with governments at all levels to ensure the tax and regulatory environment in Florida remains positive for the Internet sector. "It is the nature of government at all levels to consider ways to regulate the Internet. Such political interest in the Internet, if not monitored carefully, could cause considerable damage and irreparable harm to businesses and consumers," said Seth Gordon, managing partner of GDB + Partners, a Miami-based public relations firm representing clients in the technology sector. "Taxation of e-commerce and content regulation are two of the primary topics, and other issues will certainly arise along the way. It is likely that if we, who have the most at stake, do not participate in the decision-making process, we will not be pleased with the end result."

New Search Engine Site Ranking System in Place
Big changes are underway in regard to how websites are ranked by search engines. A new ranking system being used by Alta Vista, Excite, Google, Lycos and the search portion of Yahoo tracks and ranks sites according to the number of links pointing to a particular web site. Not only is the number of links considered, but the quality of links is considered as well. With these new changes now in effect, not only are web sites ranked by keyword relevancy, meta tags, title and text, but also the overall popularity of the web site. These new changes may have a great impact on the effectiveness of some of the current techniques used to achieve high rankings.

Feds Should Practice What They Preach on Privacy
According to the Standard, a new General Accounting Office reports that the U.S. federal government is not operating up to the Federal Trade Commission's privacy protection standards for commercial websites. The report, commissioned in June by three prominent Republican lawmakers commissioned, applied the FTC's "fair information practices" recommendations to 65 federal government Web sites, from the State Department to the White House Fellows Program to the FTC's own site. Only 3 percent of the sites contained "elements" of all four of the fair-information practices promulgated by the FTC, the report said.

"This GAO report is a devastating assessment of the Clinton-Gore administration's failure to live by its own privacy standards," Rep. Richard Armey (R-Texas), the U.S. House majority leader, said in a statement. "People with glass websites should not throw stones."

American Express Touts New Customer Protection System
Addressing consumer concerns about online privacy and security, American Express Company last week announced new products that provide customers with protection when browsing and shopping online. The first product, known as Private PaymentsSM , offers a more secure way to pay online using a random, unique number for each online purchase. Private Payments enables customers to purchase online without transmitting their actual card account numbers over the Internet. Further safeguarding the online purchase, the Private Payments expire after the merchant authorization process is completed and, upon expiration, cannot be used again if stolen. Private Payments will be available free within the month to American Express consumer and small business card members in the United States.

The company has also signed an agreement with and made a minority investment in Privada Inc., a digital privacy infrastructure provider, to deliver a second product that will enable customers to choose how much of their information is shared when they browse any site on the Web. This private browsing product will allow customers to select from settings that range from sharing their full identity to anonymity. The service will be introduced later this year. Additional offerings in the new suite of American Express products will be announced next year.

Privacy concerns and online credit card fraud have sullied the appearance of Internet business in the past, CNET News reported, adding that a recent survey found most Americans are concerned about online businesses collecting personal information.

IE Feature Can Track Web Surfers Without Warning
Microsoft is investigating a possible privacy loophole in its Internet Explorer browser that could thwart efforts by people who want to surf the Web anonymously, CNET News reported. The feature in IE 5 and above, referred to by Microsoft as "persistence," is designed to let Web pages remember information, such as search queries, entered by visitors. But, privacy advocates complain, and Microsoft recently acknowledged, that the trade-off for that convenience is that websites can uniquely identify visitors as they return over time--without any warning from IE. Microsoft said vast majority of Web surfers already are knowingly vulnerable to the same level of exposure.