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May 1, 2003

Resistance to the US Patriot Act is growing

Section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001 allows authorities to "request" a person's library borrowing history and book purchasing habits. Depending on how the "request" is phrased, librarians and book sellers may be required to immediately turn over the records that are being sought with no way to protest the "request".

The person whose records the authorities may want to examine does not have to be suspected of committing a crime or even of planning to commit a crime. Ever hear of The Fourth Amendment? The authors of the Patriot Act apparently have not.

Section 215 also makes it illegal for booksellers or librarians to alert anyone to the fact that they have received an order. This is a very chilling provision, because it prevents someone from protesting the search and seizure of their records if the investigators are acting improperly or if the investigation is being done for harassment value.

Some librarians have gone to the point of creating and displaying huge signs that say "The FBI has NOT seized borrowing records at this library". Although it may be illegal to report a request for a borrower's records, it certainly is not illegal to say that they aren't (yet). If your library has such signs and one day they disappear, watch out.

I applaud that little piece of civil disobedience and I urge every bookseller and librarian in the country to do the same. The Patriot Act was important in giving authorities powers that they needed to discover terrorist networks. However, the language of the act is far too broad and would never have passed absent the hysteria overwhelming the country in the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. Government being government, this act will be abused. Remember the DCMA?

Privacy International gives out Brandeis Awards to champions of privacy rights. I don't have a trophy or a plaque to give out, but I would like to give some recognition to one bookseller in particular. Bear Pond Books of Vermont has gone to the extraordinary effort of actually deleting the records of their customer's buying habits rather than allowing them to be searched by law enforcement. That is valuable demographic data given voluntarily by their customers, something that advertising spyware companies actually go to the trouble of stealing from internet users. If you are looking for a book online, give this little bookstore a look before you try Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Bear Pond Books is not alone in resisting the US Patriot Act in an active manner. Scores of communities across the nation are challenging the federal government openly. These small towns are passing local laws which make compliance with the Patriot Act difficult, if not outright illegal.

Arcata, California has passed legislation criminalizing voluntarily compliance with any federal investigation in which the Patriot Act is invoked. One Arcata council member was quoted as saying that "the Federal Government has gone stark raving mad."

Carrboro, North Carolina requires federal investigators who visit the town to report to city hall and state their business. Carrboro also directs local police to stand in the way of any unreasonable searches or seizures.

The government of America serves the people of American, not the other way around. Perhaps the federal government has forgotten that. Thankfully, this growing number of American communities are reminding the government of that fundamental fact of life in a way that cannot be ignored. We'll just have to wait and see what happens when the other shoe drops.


Links:
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment04/ The Fourth Amendment
http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/20030102_dmca_unintended_consequences.html Unintended consequences of the DCMA
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newsletter/archives/april-2003/24.php#bbawards Brandeis Awards
http://www.bearpondbooks.com/NASApp/store/IndexJsp?s=storeinfo&page=214088 Bear Pond Books' Patriot Act policy
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64173-2003Apr20.html Arcata, CA crimilizes Patriot Act compliance
http://www.wgst.com/script/headline_newsmanager.php?id=149671 Carrboro, NC directs police to obstruct unreasonable searches

Panicware Pop-up Stopper Pro

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Program: Pop-Up Stopper Pro
Author: Panicware
Platform: All browsers running on Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000 and XP
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As a service to our readers, SpywareInfo negotiates healthy discounts on popular software for a limited time and announces it in each newsletter. This lets us pay for site hosting and other expenses without displaying any other ads. With the recent server upgrade and new hosting plan, hosting the site is much more expensive than it used to be. If you have an idea for a product that could be featured here, please let us know.


Links:
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/rd/panicware/ Visit Panicware for your discount (Use coupon code SPYWARE)
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/email2.php Suggest a product to be featured

Amazon in violation of COPPA according to EPIC

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Tuesday, April 22, 2003

EPIC AND CONSUMER ORGANIZATIONS ALLEGE VIOLATION OF CHILDREN'S PRIVACY LAW BY AMAZON.COM

Groups Groups Urge Federal Trade Commission to Investigate Internet Retailer

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and 11 consumer protection groups today urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon.com for violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The coalition of groups joining the complaint includes Commercial Alert, the Center for Media Education, and the Consumer Federation of America.

The COPPA is a 1998 law that seeks to protect individuals under the age of 13 from online privacy violations. Commercial web sites that are directed towards children, or those that have actual knowledge that they collect children's personal information must comply with the COPPA. Such sites must provide a parental privacy notice, a mechanism to obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection of children's information, a system for parental review and deletion of children's information, and security and confidentiality requirements.

The groups alleged in the complaint that Amazon.com is operating a commercial web site directed at children, collecting children's personal data, and disclosing it. The Amazon.com "Toy Store" page employs child models, cartoon characters, and child-like fonts to direct children to purchase toys on the site. Individuals who visit "Toysrus.com" or "Imaginarium.com" are directed to the Amazon.com "Toy Store" page.

Furthermore, numerous apparent children have registered on the Amazon.com web site. The EPIC complaint notes that children as young as 7 have registered, and in some cases, have publicly listed their full names, postal addresses, and e-mail addresses.

"Amazon.com clearly markets its products to children, but has not complied with the privacy responsibilities that accompany such activities," said Chris Hoofnagle, deputy counsel to EPIC, he continued, "Congress enacted the COPPA to address web sites that collected children's personal information, but fail to protect children from the risks involved in disclosing their data."

The complaint urges the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon.com, and to order the company to purge Children's information from the site.

The complaint is available online at www.epic.org.

EPIC maintains a web page on the COPPA at http://www.epic.org/privacy/kids/.

EPIC is a public-interest center that was established to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and other constitutional values.

CONTACT:
Chris Jay Hoofnagle
EPIC Deputy Counsel
202-483-1140 x108
hoofnagle@epic.org


Links:
http://www.epic.org/privacy/kids/ EPIC's coppa page
http://www.epic.org/privacy/amazon/pr4.22.03.html EPIC press release
http://www.epic.org/privacy/amazon/coppacomplaint.html EPIC's COPPA complaint

PC Magazine taking heat over product reviews

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PC Magazine's recent review of spyware removal programs has generated a lot of discussion (and argument) since it was published.

A couple of weeks ago, Lavasoft responded to PC Mag's review of Ad-aware at their support forums. They took issue with the fact that their product was reviewed alongside BPS Spyware Remover, which they claim is at least partially copied from their own Ad-aware. They also had doubts about the thoroughness of the reviewer.

One also has to wonder at the inconsistency that the author shows between to consecutive paragraphs. First he claims the Interface is "awkward" and in the very next states that Ad-aware has a "straightforward interface". This shows some serious confusion and you have to ask yourself if deadlines were the priority rather than accurate analysis.

Read the rest

Neil Rubenking of PC Magazine later registered at Lavasoft's message board to answer the criticsm of the review. Mr. Rubenking is the project leader of PC Mag's Internet Services Team.

I can't respond directly to the announcement at http://www.lavasoftsupport.com/index.php?act=ST&f=1&t=5963, so I'm posting here.

I feel I need to step in and defend our reviewer. As you know, for a long time Ad-Aware was PC Magazine's favorite recommendation for spyware removal. We did grow discouraged by the lack of reference-file updates for 5.83, but had great hopes for version 6. Unfortunately, testing just didn't support those hopes. The "How We Tested" section of the article (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,994116,00.asp) details our testing methodology.

Read the rest

Webroot also speaks out

The project manager for Webroot's Spysweeper software has also responded to PC Mag's review of their product in a posting at SpywareInfo's support forums.

I'd like to take a moment to address the points brought up by the recent article by PC Magazine. Webroot Software provided PC Magazine a copy of the program that was not ready for release, which is the primary reason for the negative review. Anticipating a review of similar competing products, Webroot hastily provided PC Magazine version 1.03, a pre-release version of the program that was not ready for retail.

You can read the rest of the statement at SpywareInfo's forums

No complaints from Spybot's maker

PepiMK couldn't be happier about the review. Of course, Spybot S&D was the editor's top choice, so go figure. :-)

I should note that many people became very irritated by pop up ads and Red Sheriff tracking cookies while reading these reviews. The cookies and pop ups are present all over the site and not specifically on those pages. However, it is ironic that you have to deal with them while reading a series of articles about spyware removal.


Links:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,994111,00.asp Review of Spysweeper
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,994103,00.asp Review of Ad-aware
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/forums/index.php?act=ST&f=8&t=4664 Webroot's response
http://security.kolla.de/index.php?lang=en&page=news/news20030406 Spybot's response
http://www.lavasoftsupport.com/index.php?act=ST&f=1&t=5963 Lavasoft's response
http://www.lavasoftsupport.com/index.php?act=ST&f=8&t=6096 PC Mag replies to Lavasoft

Online anonymity comes under fire

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Though Verizon recently lost its fight to keep two subscriber's personal information out of the hands of the recording industry, privacy advocates say the real losers are consumers.

Invoking a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Recording Industry Association of America subpoenaed Verizon to turn over the name of two of its Internet service subscribers, both alleged file-swappers.

Verizon had filed a motion to quash the subpoena, but on Thursday a U.S. District Court ruled that the company must hand over the name of the suspected pirates.

Verizon announced it would ask a U.S. Appeals Court for a stay of the ruling.


Link:

http://www.wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,58633,00.html Complete Wired Article

Mike the spammer

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From: Henrik Gemal
To: Mike Healan
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 3:36 AM
Subject: webform

Your newsletter was marked as spam by spamassassin.org:

Content analysis details: (7.20 points, 5 required)
NO_REAL_NAME (1.0 points) From: does not include a real name
OPT_IN (1.2 points) BODY: Talks about opting in (lowercase version)
MONEY_MAKING (2.0 points) BODY: Discusses money making
HTML_20_30 (1.6 points) BODY: Message is 20% to 30% HTML
BAYES_60 (1.2 points) BODY: Bayesian classifier says spam probability is 60 to 70%
[score: 0.6553]
HTML_LINK_CLICK_HERE (0.1 points) BODY: HTML link text says "click here"
MIME_HTML_ONLY (0.1 points) Message only has text/html MIME parts
CLICK_BELOW (0.0 points) Asks you to click below

==================================================================

From: Mike Healan
To: Henrik Gemal
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 3:55 AM
Subject: Re: webform

>> OPT_IN (1.2 points) BODY: Talks about opting in (lowercase version)

I'll remove that immediately and force everyone to remain subscribed whether they want to or not. My mistake :-)

>> HTML_20_30 (1.6 points) BODY: Message is 20% to 30% HTML

Obviously. Didn't they tell you HTML was invented by spammers? It was this evil thing they created one day and a bunch of webmasters stole it to use on web sites.

>> HTML_LINK_CLICK_HERE (0.1 points) BODY: HTML link text says "click here"

Yes, only spammers create HTML links and then advise people to click on them


And this would be why spam filters do not work. Legitimate email gets blocked, and only spammers have the money to figure a way around them.

Pardon the sarcasm, but bad spam filters in general and spam assassin in particular tick me off.
http://www.talkbiz.com/assassin.html#assassin

Regards,

Mike Healan
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/


Henrik also has a page at http://gemal.dk/browserspy/ that will detect and display all sorts of information about your browser and your computer. Go check it out.

Editor's Choice

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These programs, regardless of whether they are freeware or shareware, are the finest programs in their categories. They are programs that I use. Programs will be only presented to you if they meet the criterion of excellence AND they agree to give the Spywareinfo readers a discounted price. These programmers / companies do good work. I am hoping that you support them, as they are recognizing Spywareinfo readers with a special, time limited discount.

Check out the Editor's Choice page for full reviews and links


Clipmate 6.1

ClipMate will allow the user to copy multiple pieces of text and paste these multiple items in any order that is necessary.


Codestuff Starter

Manage your startup programs and running processes from an attractive and easy to understand interface.

Site news

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As I mentioned in the short mailing a couple of days ago, I was recently interviewed by a reporter from a very large media outlet (I don't want to say which one just yet). The reporter asked to talk to some browser hijacking victims, so I asked at the forums. After no one replied, I sent out that mailing asking for volunteers.

Here is some advice for everyone. Never ask 6,000 people what they think of lop.com and xupiter all at once! Dozens and dozens of people wrote to me (are still writing to me!) volunteering to tell their hijacking horror stories. Thank you very much everybody. He has what he needed now. The story should be out soon, and I'll let you know when.

If you would still like to vent about a browser hijacking, a fight to remove spyware from your system, or some other sort of privacy violation, you still can. We've long had a section at the support forums specifically for that sort of thing. Registration is not required to post, so if you have a horror story, let's hear it!

Link:
http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/forums/index.php?act=Post&CODE=00&f=16 Vent about your spyware or browser hijacker experience


We are trying to come up with ways to increase the number of visitors to the web site. Recently I signed up for RecommendIt's service, also used by Scot Finnie and Fred Langa. By using RecommendIt's service to send a link to a friend or family member, you can choose to enter a contest with an grand prize of $10,000.

The privacy policy of the site looks solid and I did ask around if anyone had heard anything bad about it before I signed up for it. You can use their service to recommend SpywareInfo to someone you know at http://www.recommend-it.com/l.z.e?s=881459

Of course, you don't *have* to use RecommendIt's site to send a friend a link to the site. Just sending an email will also do the trick.


How many of you remember a couple of months ago when the newsletter was mailed to everyone twice and I couldn't figure out why? Well, I have found the culprit. It turned out to be my ISP's proxy software. This proxy commits many unnatural acts on network protocols to help compensate for the huge lag associated with satellite internet.

The software that sends out this newsletter is web based, and if I use the proxy it sends each email multiple times. Lord only knows why. At any rate, that mystery is solved and hopefully it will never do that again.

Link:
http://www.direceway.com Direcway internet service


If you're wondering why all the extra space for links this week, it is for readers with visual impairments who use screen reader software. It also makes it easier to post these sections on message boards, something you can do as long as you link back to the section you're quoting or to this whole page.

See you next week.

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