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A proposal to improve the way information flows across the Internet has privacy advocates worried the design could be used to trace a person's identity. The proposal, an addressing system called IPv6, was created by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an international standards body, and would include a unique serial number for each computer's network connection as part of its expanded new IP address. Critics warn that, if adopted, the move could strip the anonymity and security of Internet users over traditional phone lines, allowing commercial sites to correlate these embedded serial numbers against a consumer's name, address, and other personal details, from clothing size to political affiliation. Today, most home computers are assigned a different IP address each time they connect. Although IPv6 would not be widely used for years, "There is no doubt there are serious privacy concerns," says Marc Rotenberg, a lawyer for the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. IETF's task force chair, Fred Baker, views these privacy concerns as "overrated."


Advertising, the old-fashioned way . . . "We're attracting people we haven't heard of. You can't match the reach of television."—Marvin Goldsmith, president of sales and marketing at the ABC television network, explaining the $200 million revenue in "dot.com" ads ABC received in 1999.


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Junk Heap of History

Old computers have become the latest garbage disposal problem, and officials expect the situation to get worse in the next few years, reports Time. As charities get pickier about taking old machines and PCs' useful lifespans continue to shrink, state governments are scrambling to find solutions to the problem. For example, Massachusetts has implemented a program to fill potholes with ground-up plastic pellets derived from computer casing; in Wisconsin, the city of Madison holds an annual collection day for businesses to jettison old machines; and in Denver recycling consultants are paid $100 to haul away machines. The European Union is considering a relatively simple solution of promoting eco-friendly designs by holding manufacturers responsible for taking products back when their usefulness is over.

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Measuring Youth Violence Potential

Concerned by the rash of student violence, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is working with a threat-evaluation company to develop a computer program to help school administrators spot troubled students. The national pilot program, called Mosaic-2000, is based on software used at Yale University and some federal courthouses to evaluate the potential for violence of individuals who make threats. Mosaic programs, designed by California-based Gavin de Becker Inc., use carefully worded questions about student behavior based on case histories of people who have turned violent and are intended to help officials discern the real threat amid the innocuous, if frightening, outbursts that regularly cause concern. Testing at more than 20 schools begins this month.

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Britannica Online

Longtime information leader Encyclopaedia Britannica is giving away knowledge for free on the Web in a desperate bid to stay afloat in the information age. The publisher's 32-volume set can be found on the Chicago-based company's retooled Web site (www.britannica.com). The only catch: You have to wade through lots of advertisements—Britannica's new source of revenue for the risky move—to get the information you want. Dire financial straits forced the 231-year-old company to rethink its marketing strategy in today's information technology climate.

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Free George Now

Ever wonder where your money travels once it's circulated on the open seas of commerce? Register any U.S. denomination by serial number and a zip code, stamp or write www.wheresgeorge.com on the bill, and hope that future owners are curious enough to update the bills' travel history. So far, 55,000 people have entered nearly 900,000 bills, or more than $5 million worth of currency, in the site's database. Some spenders adopt creative strategies: taping money to a balloon and letting it fly, leaving a $20 bill in a book in a bookstore, and putting a bill in a bottle and floating it on a lake.

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©1999 ACM  0002-0782/99/1200  $5.00

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