“ So there’s your free advice, PR folks. Write your message in English — or risk being flushed right down the discoverability hub.”
I agree with David’s post. My Inbox is also clogged with PR pitches that are confusing, vague, and poorly written. I would add that PR and marketing folks should not “touch base” or “circle back” when I don’t express interest in the pitch.
I used to respond personally to every email, no matter how terrible the product was, but I can’t keep up. Email is nearly free to send, and it seems like everyone with a product to sell knows that all too well.
Postscript: after 13 years at the New York Times, David is now working for Yahoo. I can’t wait to see the results of that partnership.
In the summer of 2000, the FBI was in the news due to Carnivore, a system designed to monitor email and electronic communications.
PRIVACY? FORGET ABOUT IT.
published Wednesday, July 26, 2000 in the Toronto Sun
Red light cameras are a good idea. Drivers who run red lights should be taken off the road. Not only is it illegal to run a red light, it’s very dangerous. We need red light cameras at major intersections, to catch dangerous drivers in the act and make sure they’re charged.
That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Everyone wants to improve traffic safety and get dangerous drivers off the road.
However, in U.S. communities where red light cameras have been installed, privacy advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union have expressed concern about “mission creep.” They fear that the data collected by these cameras will be used for purposes other than tracking reckless drivers. The ACLU has asked for assurances that red light cameras will never be used for anything but photographing cars that run red lights.
On the Web, the collection of personal information has become commonplace. This is especially true at shopping sites. If you want the company to ship something to your house, they need to know where you live. If you want them to contact you by telephone, you have to give them your phone number. If you want to pay with a credit card, they need your credit card number.
For many sites — and many consumers — the best solution so far has been a clearly stated privacy agreement. Shoppers consent to give their personal information to merchants who promise to keep the information private and secure, and only use it to help facilitate the transaction. Many consumers are comfortable giving out their personal data online as long as the Web site promises not to sell it or share it with anyone else.
That seemed like a pretty good system until Toysmart.com went under. The Web retailer, which filed for bankruptcy in June, listed customer information as one of its assets for sale. Toysmart is only one of several failed e-commerce companies that have either sold or tried to sell customer information.
This week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ruled that the information could be sold, but only to companies that agree to abide by Toysmart’s original privacy agreement with customers. That’s small consolation to anyone who trusted Toysmart with their personal data.
The latest story to highlight privacy issues concerns “Carnivore” — an Internet wiretap system used by the FBI in the United States. Carnivore is designed to eavesdrop on e-mail, allowing law enforcement officials to spy on bad guys. Terrorists and child pornographers could be caught. Lawbreaking hackers could be brought to justice. Who would object to that?
Here’s the problem: when the FBI connects Carnivore to an Internet provider’s e-mail system — after they get a court order and permission from the ISP — it’s not just the bad guy’s e-mail that’s vulnerable. Every customer of the ISP could have their e-mail read by the FBI.
Of course, they wouldn’t do that, would they?
THE ISSUE IS TRUST
Once again, the issue is trust. Do you trust law enforcement agencies to stay away from your e-mail if they’re investigating someone else at your ISP? Do you trust government to keep your information on file? The recent brouhaha over the discovery and subsequent destruction of an information database by the Canadian government suggests that we’re not really comfortable with the idea that anyone has a complete file on us. Microsoft discovered this last year when it disclosed that the Windows operating system included a unique identifying number that could be used to track its customers. Trust has to be earned, and it only takes one mistake to end a trust relationship.
Internet providers have asked the FBI to publish information about Carnivore, so they can be sure it does what the agency says. Law enforcement officials say they don’t want to release too much information; Carnivore could be adapted and used as a tool for evasion and hacking. They also insist that Carnivore provides greater privacy than previous methods of gathering electronic information. For example, it could be used to grab e-mail going to or from one specific individual rather than all the e-mail messages sent by a suspect.
Is e-mail monitoring the same as a telephone wiretap? How do you measure “reasonable” search and seizure of electronic data? How do you monitor what law enforcement agencies are doing? Lawmakers and judges have a tough job. What’s the best way to apply existing laws to this new technology?
Technology is changing our lives, and we have choices to make. One of my favourite science fiction authors, John Brunner, said it best in his novel Shockwave Rider:
"The nation was tightly webbed in a net of interlocking data-channels, and a time traveler from a century ago would have been horrified by the degree to which confidential information had been rendered accessible to total strangers capable of adding two plus two. (‘The machines that make it more difficult to cheat on income tax can also ensure that blood of the right group is in the ambulance which picks you up from a car crash. Well?’)"
Privacy versus convenience. Choose.
“ Apple makes wedges. I think we’re yet again in an Apple Moment. And in that sense, the Mac Pro isn’t a departure for the company at all. It’s exactly in character. The Mac Pro is a aggressive feat of industrial engineering that embodies a no-compromise approach to what Apple feels is the future – everyone and everything else be damned. We’ve been here before.”