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3/11/2005
06:30 PM
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Love, College Hoops, And Steak Tartare

SPY VS. SPY: A couple of weeks ago, I wondered about the problem of delineating spyware from adware, something the Internet software industry is struggling with right now. As consumers and businesses get more fed up with spyware, and legislators look to control its use, legitimate adware companies (if that's not an oxymoron, and I don't think it is) face problems defending their business model. So I asked if anyone had a good analogy for the relationship between spyware and adware. One person called and left this very reasonable--and probably very accurate--analogy on my voice mail: "Spyware is the salesman who comes to your home and leaves behind a couple of hidden cameras, while adware is the salesman who leaves his card all around without asking you." There was one gentleman who took me to task for comparing spyware and adware with hamburger and Salisbury steak, stating that spyware is more like ground meat, "the uncooked mass of possibly mad-cow-disease-inducing stuff," which would make adware steak tartare. Finally, there was one very direct, heartfelt request for action: "Why can't we lump them both into viruses and let the big guns go after them the same way they do virus protection?"

CLOSING THE BARN DOOR. ChoicePoint, the beleaguered data aggregator, said last week it has hired a chief privacy officer. This comes several weeks after the company was forced to admit two security lapses that exposed customer data to criminals. ChoicePoint said Carol DiBattiste, currently deputy administrator of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, will help establish company policies for compliance with local, state, and federal privacy regulations. She will head an office in Washington and oversee improvements in customer identification, site-visit-based verification, and procedures to expedite the reporting of privacy incidents. DiBattiste's title will be chief credentialing, compliance, and privacy officer, and she will report to the board's new privacy committee.

MARCH MADNESS! Sports-related Web sites have increased dramatically in the last 12 months, from nearly 232,000 a year ago to more than 302,000 today, according to Websense, a Web-filtering company. (Full disclosure: The Websense service is used by CMP Media, InformationWeek's parent company.) Many of those sites offer real-time game results, streaming media, and up-to-the-minute analysis. That's important to remember as we get into the NCAA basketball championship playoffs, known as March Madness, and your network traffic increases exponentially while Web access slows to a crawl. A related factoid: There are more than 66,000 online gambling sites, creating another source of network congestion during high-profile sporting events.

SURFING FOR LOVE. Speaking of spending money online, consumers handed over $1.8 billion to Web-content providers last year, a 14% increase over 2003, the Online Publishers Association said last week. Online personals remain the leading paid-content category, reaching $469 million, 4% more than the previous year. Entertainment beat out investing for the No. 2 spot, with $413.5 million spent, a 90% increase.

Basketball, gambling, personals, and iPod--man, I'm really starting to like this Internet thing. Send me your pick for the NCAA championship or an industry tip, to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about spyware, privacy, or Web filtering, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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