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Privacy & Security News December 8.2000

IE security bug leaves files vulnerable
Microsoft is investigating a vulnerability in Internet Explorer that could give attackers free rein in reading known files on targeted computers.

IE feature can track Web surfers without warning

The economic value of your personal information

Recently, Computerworld reported that online merchant was arbitrarily charging different prices to different customers on DVDs. Logging on to Amazon using Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator resulted higher or lower prices for the same movie.

Several contributors to forums on, and were outraged, claiming that Amazon was measuring the price sensitivity of shoppers and raising prices for those identified as "suckers."

When contacted, an Amazon spokesperson responded that the price differences were merely a test to evaluate the effects of several site variables including price, page layout and content. Amazon denied that the price differences were based on a user profile.

Price discrimination is nothing new. Catalogue merchants have been know to issue different catalogues to different customers based on past purchases. Online price discrimination is a little more problematic because it's very easy to perform and the shopper is usually not even aware that it's going on.

A contributor to Slashdot jokingly suggested that online shoppers could sell browser cookies to one another. If your user profile suggests you'll pay high prices for Mozart CDs but have no interest in Beethoven, you might sell your cookie to (or trade with) a Beethoven fan who could then buy Beethoven at a discount or at least at the regular price.

But instead of trading cookies with other shoppers, you can manage your online profiles with tools like Freedom and save yourself from a merchant's discriminatory label. As profiling techniques get more and more sophisticated, the economic value of a personal profile will become more apparent and those with the foresight to keep their personal data from becoming public domain will be better able to realize its economic value.
Luc Vezina
For more reading:,1367,38622,00.html,1199,NAV47_STO49569,00.html

Web bugs can be placed in Word and Excel documents

Some of the nation's largest corporations want to spend $80 million on an advertising campaign to help ease consumers' online-privacy fears

New Website launched to oppose Carnivore

INTERNET users can avoid having their e-mails intercepted by the British government if they follow some simple advice published this week by two leading Internet security experts.

Online marketers propose privacy standards

FBI releases first batch of Carnivore documents

Commentary: Hacker attack stresses network security Although the majority of virus attacks don't lead to the same level of information compromise Microsoft may have suffered, attacks targeted at acquiring or destroying specific data are growing rapidly.

Microsoft hackers had access for weeks

Microsoft computer network hacked; FBI steps in

Microsoft hack puts spotlight on tech espionage

Democrats: 'Big Browser' is Watching. Wired, 16 October 2001.,1848,39466,00.html

Motorola demands your consumer data. ZD Net, 8 October 2001.,4586,2637528,00.html

Critics blast FBI's first release of Carnivore documents. CNET, 2 October 2001.

New documents shed more light on FBI's Carnivore

Report finds risk but supports Carnivore email surveillance The Illinois Institute of Technology concludes that the FBI's controversial email surveillance system "does not provide protections, especially audit functions, commensurate with the level of the risks."

British Spies Want 7 Year Records
The spooks and police in Britain are trying to get legislation forcing telephone companies and ISPs to send their logs to a central government database. Politicians and privacy advocates aren't too pleased.

AOL Instant Messenger Security Flaw
Yes, another security flaw. Apparently it's possible for accounts to be virtually hijacked and credit card numbers stolen through AOL's Instant Messenger.

Yahoo Encrypted Email
Yahoo has become the first free web email service to offer email security using encryption--sort of.

British Spies Want 7 Year Records
The spooks and police in Britain are trying to get legislation forcing telephone companies and ISPs to send their logs to a central government database. Politicians and privacy advocates aren't too pleased.

Privacy advocates wary of data-sharing standard
A new technology standard that smoothes the way for online businesses to easily share detailed customer profiles is sounding an alarm for privacy advocates.

Security Flaw in Windows Media Player
A flaw in MS Media Player can make viewing streaming media a danger, and a second flaw affects skins.

Online ad companies hit with privacy suits

A Great Little Cookie Cleaner

PacketStorm Security Site

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