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I.T. Confidential: Privacy, Price Wars, And Identity Theft

So anxious are federal officials about privacy concerns related to anti-terrorist intelligence gathering, such as the new $70 million Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System (known as CAPPS II), the government is sending its top brass--including Adm. James Loy, undersecretary for security at the Department of Transportation--to speak with civil-liberty and privacy groups. Next week, Loy will keynote Privacy & American Business' national conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. "As privacy advocates and civil-liberties groups gear up to challenge new government initiatives to access consumer information in business files," says Alan Westin, president and publisher of Privacy & American Business, "companies are seeking guidance on how to support legitimate government needs but also protect legitimate privacy interests."

California Gov. Gray Davis, looking to close a $35 billion budget gap, hasn't ruled out instituting an online sales tax. Three years ago, Davis vetoed legislation to do just that. The thinking then: "Let's not kill the goose laying the golden egg," a spokeswoman says. Within the next half-year, Davis wants to restructure the way California raises revenue, the spokeswoman says, and an online tax is just one of many options to be considered.

Price war! Giga Information Group predicts outsourcers in India, which have the largest share of the offshore market, will feel competitive heat from U.S. firms over the next two years. The two big American companies, IBM and EDS, will undercut Indian companies' offshore prices, Giga predicts, and so will global players such as Accenture. As a result, top-tier outsourcers will match or exceed industry growth rates, while smaller Indian firms will struggle. Giga also predicts Mexico will emerge as a closer-to-home alternative for North American companies.

Monster.com, the popular Internet job board, distributed an E-mail to millions of registered job seekers last week, warning them of the potential abuse of the open (and anonymous) communication between candidates and potential employers the site provides. A Monster spokesman says the company sent the E-mail as part of its "Be Safe" campaign, which includes a warning posted on the Web site that's similar to the E-mail warning, advising users that fake job listings have been used to gather and steal personal information, and not to give out credit-card numbers, Social Security information for "routine background checks," or personal data such as marital status. The spokesman says no particular incident prompted the mass mailing.

Maybe I'm missing something, but If I were looking to steal credit-card data, I wouldn't target Monster.com--those people don't have jobs! Of course, I'm not looking for credit-card data; I'm looking for an industry tip, so send one to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about privacy versus homeland security, offshore outsourcing, or online taxes, 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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