The Privacy Follies

Commercial Websites are constantly pulling little anti-privacy tricks on consumers. Or is it, in the latest case, just a bug?

More in my Wednesday column.

Priceline’s Woes, Deconstructed

Fortune: Inside Jay Walker’s House of Cards. Like real spaghetti, this dish is hard to handle. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have so much strange news about Priceline.

Read this story.

What’s Microsoft Afraid Of?

Reuters: Microsoft rivals push appeals court on amicus briefs. AOL and trade associations representing Microsoft’s competitors have sought to file individual amicus briefs, a move Microsoft has vigorously opposed.

Our favorite monopolist has discovered that there are far more third-party adversaries who want to file friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of the government’s side in the antitrust case than defenders. No surprise there.

Napster and the Record Industry

Napster’s deal with Bertelsmann AG (Mercury News) is, on balance, a step in the right direction. But I don’t understand how it changes very much in this debate.

First of all, the deal is more prospective — and vague — than real. It assumes Napster will be able to come up with a technology that lets music-listeners download the songs they like in a form that will still protect copyrights, yet preserve what makes Napster so useful to its users. It also wants people to pay $5 a month for the music.

Second, it assumes that Napster will lose its legal battle with the record industry. I tend to believe it will, but a Napster victory would make it unnecessary to have such a deal with the industry.

Third, this assumes the industry will persuade the artists to comply. Keep in mind that the major record labels have done nothing but anger the musicians over the years. The artists may want to strike their own online deals.

Finally, today’s Napster users will simply migrate to another file-sharing service that doesn’t charge. Anyone who thinks that “free music” isn’t the major attraction of Napster hasn’t been paying attention. I’m not saying that’s a good thing — the artists deserve to be rewarded for their work, contrary to the music-must-be-free mantra you hear so often these days — but it’s reality.

It’ll be interesting to watch.

Halloween and the Election

I’m scared.

I’m scared because the United States, a nation I love, is about to elect the most unqualified and/or intellectually dishonest president in this century.

Because his chief opponent has squandered his opportunity by pandering and worse.

Because an egomanicial third-party candidate who surely knows better sees no problem in helping elect the candidate whose positions are least like his own. When women lose their right to decide their own reproductive futures, they may want to ask Ralph Nader for an explanation.

Because the media covering the election, more interested in tracking polls than issues, are too lazy or frightened of the consequences to tell the truth about the likely winner, or even probe some extraordinarily damaging accusations.

Because we have let wealth and power overwhelm all other considerations. Our political system has truly become ” one dollar, one vote” — a national travesty that should shame us.

Because the voting public has chosen to be oblivious to reality.

I’m casting my absentee ballot today, and will be in Asia next week. I’m not looking forward to this Election Day.

This one scares me.

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