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This is the TBTF Log, an experiment in reporting important breaking news in a very timely way. The TBTF newsletter continues unchanged. The most recent issue is TBTF for 2000-04-19: Dot-communist.

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Friday, April 21, 2000

4/21/2000 10:59:51 AM

  • eGroups eats customer data, is unresponsive. eGroups has, apparently, killed off its Calendar function with no notice to users and no way for them to get their data back.

    Leili Towfigh sent in this correspondence from the we have absolutely no regard for people's personal data wars. Since sending this email she has received a second breezy, content-free note from someone with a different name in eGroups customer support; but no explanation, no apology, and no restitution.

    Is anyone associated with eGroups reading this item? I urge you to make this right. I'll post the news as soon as you let me know you've fixed this problem.

    From: L Towfigh
    Sent: Tuesday, April 04, 2000 1:05 AM
    To: support@egroups.com
    Subject: Customer service complaint
    To eGroups:
    I received a strangely blithe message today from someone called
    "Kristi" about how the eGroups personal calendar function is no longer
    What is up with THAT?
    Have you never heard of the not-so-complicated concept of WARNING your
    users that you are going to get rid of a function that stores their
    data? Data is very important - my CAT understands this very
    straightforward idea. Step into the 90s! Other online services I use
    such as hotmail, amazon, cdnow have the courtesy to inform me of any
    changes to their site that might in some way effect my data, so that I
    have time to retrieve the data. Your design folks decided it would be
    really cool to blow away my personal calendar and then send a chirpy,
    informationless message from "Kristi" that did not address my
    questions, told me simply that "the function is no longer available,"
    and then thanked me, which added insult to injury. I lost important
    calendar entries with ZERO warning from you. Would you also do this to
    whole egroups with no warning? I cannot be sure what you'll do now
    that you have set an erratic, bizarre precedent.
    I have been a vocal promoter of eGroups - UNTIL NOW. Your
    irresponsible handling of my data, however, is impetus for me to start
    de-promoting you. A fundatmental aspect of building online communities
    is a positive public image, that is spread by word of mouth. I will
    have no problems letting the MIT community know to stay away from your
    service, as you fail to grasp another rather fundamental aspect of
    online groupware: your users have to trust that you will take care of
    their data.
    With annoyance and flames,
    L. Towfigh
       The personal calendar function is no longer available.
       Thanks for using eGroups!  For helpful hints please visit:
       If you have any further questions please do not reply on this ticket
       number. Send another email to support@egroups.com to create a new
       ticket number.
       eGroups Support Team
          ------- Original Message --------
          From:            L Towfigh
          To:              support@egroups.com
          Subject:         Personal calendar has disappeared?
          Date:            04/03/00 06:41:05
          Dear tech support folks --
          I appear to be unable to access my personal space / calendar now that
          the changes to eGroups have been instituted.
          Where is my personal calendar? I belong to six groups and I want to be
          able to view the overlay version of the calendar, but cannot! I rely
          on this calendar function to store my information, so it is very
          important that I be able to access the information as soon as
          possible, like, today, so I know what appointments I have! I did not
          see any warnings that my personal space would be deleted or replaced,
          so what's the deal?
          L. Towfigh

4/21/2000 10:29:44 AM

  • Privacy invasion built into the Net's bones. This is very bad. Read the latest Privacy Forum about the well-advanced plans of Predictive Networks. In short, this company -- and (apparently) others in the pipeline -- intends to capture 100% of users' clickstream data from ISPs and even backbone providers. Options for opting out of such a scheme may be anywhere from impractical to impossible -- as well as costly, because ISPs are expected to offer lower rates to users who don't object to having their every move in cyberspace snooped.

    Here is Privacy Forum moderator Lauren Weinstein's call to action. Speak up now. A good first step would be to join Weinstein's People for Internet Responsibility.

    We still have the chance to say that our personal information is our own and that our Web browsing behavior is private. We may yet be able to successfully assert that we won't be manipulated, coerced, or otherwise "bribed" into allowing our Web activities to (as "The Prisoner" put it) be "pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered!"

    The Internet and Web have tremendous commercial potential. But it can be achieved ethically and without the use of obnoxious technologies that are being shoved down our throats like feed for animals destined for the dinner table. The firms who view the Internet as little more than a "cash cow" are already placing the software rings in our noses in an effort to see us made easier to manipulate and control.

    The stink of the slaughterhouse may not be far away.

Thursday, April 20, 2000

4/20/2000 2:34:44 PM

  • A well anarchized telecom infrastructure. This piece in Salon, chapter six of Andrew Leonard's online book-in-the-works, is titled Finland -- the open-source society. Here we learn why Finland is so dominant in cell phones. This lucky 21st-century positioning was set up a century ago by the Finnish government's decision to grant phone company licenses to every applicant, instead of making phone service a monopoly. Seems the Finns feared that the Russians, who dominated them, might try to take over the phone system, and wanted it decentralized.

    I owe this link to Travis J.I. Corcoran, who adds his own uniquely American coda to the Finnish constitution:

    A well anarchized telecom infrastructure, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Phones, shall not be Infringed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

4/19/2000 3:38:45 PM

  • The JavaScript-in-cookies security hole. Peacefire's Bennett Haselton has discovered a clever exploit that exposes files on a Windows machine running Netscape 4.x, if JavaScript and cookies are both enabled. So far it works only on Windows, but Haselton believes that different versions could be tailored for other platforms. Here's the demonstration page.

    The exploit works by setting a cookie on the user's browser whose value contains JavaScript code that can perform privileged operations.

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

4/18/2000 11:45:06 AM

Monday, April 17, 2000

4/17/2000 2:30:41 PM

Sunday, April 16, 2000

4/16/2000 2:32:42 PM

  • Fiber bites backhoes (and cars). The war between backhoe and fiber is usually pretty one-sided. But TBTF Irregular Eric Scheid points out one way in which fiber is landing some blows. It seems that city streets, repeatedly dug up and poorly patched back together to install fiber, are wreaking havoc on vehicles' front ends. As TechWeb says,

    ...auto repair shops are likely benefiting big from the broadband explosion as streets are torn up to wire locations where there is a concentration of Internet users. Innovation is causing untold damage to axles and undercarriages.

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