Business & Finance
Commentary
7/22/2005
07:25 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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IT Confidential: Cell Phone Snow Jobs And A War Of Words

CELL PHONE SNOW JOBS. New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs filed suit in New York Supreme Court last week against Nextel, Sprint, and T-Mobile "for pitching cell phones and services in deceptive advertisements that misled consumers," according to a statement from the city agency. "You can't promise a great deal in the headline and hide the true costs in the fine print," said the department's acting head, Jonathan Mintz. Specifically, the agency says Nextel deceived consumers by advertising "All incoming calls are free," while explaining an access fee in the fine print of the ad, and that Sprint advertised "Nationwide long distance included. Every minute. Every day," while the fine print indicated a charge for long distance. The agency also said it pursued claims against AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, and Verizon Wireless for similar practices, but that those companies settled.

THE VIG. Data broker ChoicePoint took a $6 million charge in its second quarter to cover costs for selling more than 145,000 consumer records to scam artists, the company reported in its financial statement last week. That $6 million is in addition to $5.4 million the company detailed in the first quarter as costs related to the data problem. Of the $11.4 million total, ChoicePoint said about $2 million was spent informing the people whose data was sold and providing credit reports and credit-monitoring services for those individuals. The remaining $9.4 million ChoicePoint explained as legal costs and other professional services.

INNER CIRCLE. Police in Brazil arrested a gang of drug dealers using Google's Orkut social-networking site to support the sale of ecstasy and marijuana, Reuters reported last week. Orkut is a network developed by Google to compete with similar services such as Friendster, LinkedIn, and MySpace, which was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. last week. Like those competitors, Orkut lets users create circles of friends for virtual discussion groups and career networking, as well as to share photos. The Orkut network claims membership of some 7 million, 73% of whom are from Brazil.

WAR OF WORDS. Things got wild and wooly at Stanford University last week when tech author and former Nixon speechwriter George Gilder squared off against Bill Joy, a Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers director and Sun Microsystems co-founder, on a panel discussion about whether technology makes us safer. Gilder and Joy, who once warned that nanotechnology could have us awash in gray goo, turned the panel into an hourlong slugfest of theories and barbs. Joy contended that technologies need controls, arguing that the DNA sequences to diseases shouldn't appear on the Web, for example. Gilder, gesticulating wildly and sweating visibly through his shirt, charged that too many years in Aspen, Colo., had turned Joy's brain soft. Free societies, Gilder said, are safest when technologies move fastest.

Add in Paris Hilton and 1970s muscle cars and it sounds like my dinner tableor The News Show. Did anyone videotape it? Check out The News Show, which is updated every weekday at noon Eastern time, at www.TheNewsShow.tv or on InformationWeek.comclips may appear. If you see or hear of anything like that, or have an industry tip, send the info to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326.


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