Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 16/8/2006Much fun in Massachusetts, where AOL is once again in the news over its search methods. This time, it's physical — the company wants to dig up a garden.

Wednesday 16/8/2006

Much fun in Massachusetts, where AOL is once again in the news over its search methods. This time, it's physical — the company wants to dig up a garden. Yes, with spades and shovels and elbow grease. The occasion of this impromptu al fresco dirtfest is the disappearance of one Davis Wolfgang Hawke, spammer. He was fined $12.8m for his spammish activities, but was unaccountably absent from proceedings. So were the millions of dollars he'd made and converted into gold and platinum bars — these were due to be handed over to AOL, but since neither they nor Hawke were available for comment, the company is still empty handed.

For reasons I don't fully understand, AOL has convinced itself that the loot is stashed in the garden behind Hawke's parents' house. Hence the digging. You've got one last chance to come clean, the company told his mother, or suffer the embarrassment of having us turn over the petunias.

What would you say in the circumstances? Oh, please don't dig up my garden, Mr AOL? Here, take the buried treasure — I'd willingly hand over millions just to be spared? Peggy Greenbaum, the lady in question, is somewhat more resolute. She's in agreement that somebody's going to look darn foolish over this affair, but differs on the point of exactly who. The money and her son are miles away and she knows not where, she says, but if it makes you happy then dig yourself up a party.

Taking the logic of RIPA, of course, she should be compelled to reveal the location of the money and banged up if she can't prove she doesn't know. This whole business is also clearly the result of the annoying anonymity of money: once Hawke had got his gold, there was no way to prevent him disappearing into the hills and living the life of Riley. Government logic dictates that money should be banned and everyone issued with a government-traceable electronic fund transfer card through which all personal financial transactions should be conducted.

That'd stop spam, and it would save Peggy Greenbaum's garden. Someone tell John Reid.

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