Internaut: Some federal sites walk on the wild side

Some federal sites walk on the wild side

Shawn P. McCarthy

One great thing about the Web is the way you stumble across new things while looking up other things. Here are some tidbits I recently found while doing unrelated research.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, at www.epic.org, regards the Microsoft Passport information-gathering service as one of the biggest privacy threats on the Internet today. EPIC has written to most of the nation's state attorneys general, saying that Passport violates state laws against unfair and deceptive trade practices. Read the letter at www.epic.org/privacy/consumer/microsoft/stateagletter.html.

Meanwhile, Arizona and other states are questioning an 'opt-out only' policy put forth by carrier Qwest International Inc. of Denver. The Arizona Corporation Commission has announced its disapproval of Qwest's plan to share customer data with other companies unless a customer specifically forbids it. Such privacy wheeling and dealing will become a hot issue in many states as citizens start to complain.

If you can't trust the Securities and Exchange Commission, who can you trust? That's the point the SEC tried to make when it designed its own Internet scam to show investors how easily they could be bilked.

The fake Web site at www.mcwhortle.com appears to be a home page for a company selling so-called biological defense mechanisms, complete with customer testimonials. The PR Newswire even carried a McWhortle Enterprises press release about an impending initial public offering.

But whoever clicks to invest is taken to a page, www.mcwhortle.com/onlinebid.htm, that warns you you're way too eager to part with your money.

'In a perfect world, everyone would read our educational brochures before they ran into a scam, but they don't,' SEC chairman Harvey L. Pitt said in explanation for the scam.

You have to love the comic-book look of the comments page for the Federal Trade Commission's proposed national 'Do not call' registry. Consumers could put their names on a list of people who don't want telemarketers bothering them, and telemarketers would have to consult the list before calling.

View the entertaining page at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/index.htm.

Shawn P. McCarthy designs products for a Web search engine provider. E-mail him at smccarthy@lycos-inc.com.

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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