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Email Idiocy 15 April 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Privacy is a big issue on the Net and one piece of information that many of us don't want disclosed without our permission is our email address.

The reason is obvious -- if your address (along with 19,999,999 others) gets onto one of those spammers' CDs then you'll soon become the target of every Viagra, fad-diet, work from home, and porno site operator in the Western world.

While most local website operators are very careful to comply with the privacy law and to uphold their own privacy claims -- the number of cases where sheer incompetence has scuttled their best intentions appear to be growing.

Let's take the example of local free web-hosting operator Host-4-Free.

This looks like a typical free hosting service where Net users are offered the chance to publish their web pages to the world in return for -- well I'm not quite sure.

Anyway, there appears to be nothing wrong with the service or the offering here -- but the operator needs to learn a little about how to use email because they've just breached their own Terms & Conditions.

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The site avises: "Member grants Host-4-Free the right to disclose to third parties certain Registration Data about Member and Service membership in the aggregate; however, such disclosures will exclude Member's name, mailing address, email address, account and phone number..." yet on Friday they sent out a bulk email including what appears to be a list of all user's email addresses.

It seems that they don't know how to use the BCC field and recently stuffed everyone's address into the "to:' field of a bulk mailout.

But wait -- there's more...

Attempts to reply to the email produced a bounce with the response "Local Configuration Error".

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
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However, it's not just the small players who seem to have a rather poor grasp of email basics. Yes, even some of the big guys appear to be getting it wrong these days.

One reader has suggested that Apple NZ have just messed up when sending out emailed invitations to their "Autumn Road Show."

The reader says that not only was the invitation delivered in the form of a huge 650K PDF attachment that was virtually just a copy of info on the company's website (what's wrong with a brief email containing a link guys?) but some people seem to have received as many as four copies.

If you're a JetStream user who's over your monthly limit then Apple just spent 40 cents of your money -- which is kind of like sending an advertising brochure without a stamp and expecting the unwitting recipient to pay.

But wait... it gets even worse!

It would appear that the mailout was performed using mailing-list software designed for supporting discussions between multiple users. As a result, those who replied to the mailout complaining about the bulky attachment seem to have had their comments redistributed to everyone else on the list.

Of course in doing this -- they also unwittingly disclosed their email address to any number of unknown parties -- raising privacy concerns and in the case of one aggrieved participant, threats of action under the privacy act.

Today's question is...

When a company breaches either the privacy act or their own promises in respect to the non-distribution of your email address, should you be entitled to any compensation?

Have your say.

Due to other higher-priority calls on my time and resources over the coming days, the publication of this column may be a little erratic.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible however.

The Jet-Kart is For Sale
It's time to clear out the closet here at Aardvark's country residence so I'm having a bit of a garage sale. I need to spend a whole lot more time and money on my jet engine R&D activities (now that the defense industry has shown a very real interest) -- so I'm trying to scrape up some more cash.

The world-famous Jet-powered Gokart is up for sale by way of an informal auction. Send me your bid and I'll post the current highest offer on a webpage that will appear here soon.

As far as I'm aware, this is the only pulsejet-powered gokart in the Southern Hemisphere -- I wonder why that is?

It may not be the quietest, smoothest, most comfortable or safest vehicle in the world -- but it's sure different!

To place a bid, just drop me a line.

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Security Alerts
A trio of MS-Office security vulns TheReg - 10/04/2002)

Two new "critical" bugs patched in IE (ZDNet - 01/04/2002)

Second Java hole poses Windows risk (CNet - 20/03/2002)

Microsoft offers patch for Java software (CNet - 06/03/2002)

CERT Warns of Flaws In RADIUS Implementations (InternetNews - 6/03/2002)

Virus Alerts
Aphex E-mail Worm Has A Way With IRC, Instant Messenger (NewsBytes - 11/04/2002)

'Bill Clinton' Worm Gets Around (NewsBytes - 22/03/2002)

Gibe worm poses as a Microsoft update (ZDNet - 6/03/2002)

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