At last—an Alaska lawmaker submits a bill to regulate e-mail

Users who oppose Internet censorship and filtering are glad to make an exception
when it comes to obnoxious e-mail. As a spam-hater myself, I welcome the Inbox Privacy Act
sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski.


The Alaska Republican’s bill would force e-mail marketers to identify themselves
by making it illegal to hide behind false return addresses. Junk e-mailers would have to
honor consumer requests to be removed from lists, and they would have to submit to
electronic stop signs put up by Internet domain owners to block unwanted solicitations.


The Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings on the privacy bill later this year.
You can study it on the Web site at thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:S.759:.


Speaking of censorship, is the committee chairman, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), truly
converted to the cause of strong encryption? Two years ago, he opposed its export. Now he
apparently likes the concept, at least for use in non-hostile nations. McCain recently
introduced legislation allowing export of 64-bit and possibly 128-bit crypto by 2002.


Why the change of heart? Maybe he wants to ensure that the United States stays the key
player in the game. If U.S. vendors do not sell 128-bit crypto, others surely will.


Another reason could be that McCain saw the level of support for the Security and
Freedom through Encryption Act introduced in the House.


SAFE, posted at thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:h.r.850:,
would lead to export of high-end encryption even sooner. Because McCain has been involved
in efforts to make schools and libraries filter users’ Internet access, I find it
difficult to believe he suddenly wants to rush to export.


Here’s a postscript to my column about the Federal Communications Commission [GCN, April 12, Page 34]: FCC will tap into high-end
technical expertise as it finally starts work on a plan for dealing with the convergence
of voice, data and video.


FCC’s new Technology Advisory Council numbers such experts as MCI WorldCom
Inc.’s Vint Cerf, father of the Internet; Robert Martin, chief technology officer at
Bell Labs; and Christine Hemrick, vice president of technology communications at Cisco
Systems Inc.


Accessibility counts. If your agency hires highly creative Web designers, bear in mind
that government sites serve people from all walks of life, including those with old
browsers and those who cannot or will not download plug-ins.


Check out the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative at www.w3.org/WAI/. The site covers everything from tools
to educational efforts that keep participants on a common road.


Accessibility is even more vital now that Kosovo has become the most Internet-intensive
battlefront in history.


Besides the immediate photos of captured soldiers and the online Pentagon press
briefings, there are several Web sites: for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at www.gov.yu/facts/facts.html,  NATO at www.nato.int/, Serbia  and Kosovo at www.serbia-info.com/, Albania at www.albania.com/main , and for refugee and
international aid organizations, local churches and families.


Government managers can learn a lesson from this online war of philosophies: The Net
has become the front line of public affairs. As soon as something happens, the public and
the media flock to the Web. Speed and accuracy are vital to winning any battle, large or
small. 


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

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