News Schmooze: They're watching you...

Echelon exists, the government discovers the Internet, and the wireless Internet arrives, sort of...
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

The European Parliament has finally finished its investigation into Echelon, and hold the front page! It admits the international satellite interception network exists, they're listening to our every word, and they're probably controlled by blood-drinking aliens. Actually, the report is more sobering, and points out that Echelon can only grab satellite transmissions, which are just a small part of overall communications. What the Schmoozer would like to know is, why would people object to starring in their own private Big Brother programme?

UK users who registered with ETour.com might get a taste of privacy invasion shortly, depending on what AskJeeves.com decides to do with all the customer info it bought off ETour. Apparently going bankrupt and selling all your assets to another company doesn't count as passing your details to a third party. The Schmoozer can't imagine, however, that AskJeeves will easily part with all that glorious personal information, though -- after all, they paid good money for it, and times are tough these days...

The Labour Party might have an IT ace up its sleeve for the election, with a plan to save Ericsson jobs in the UK. Not that it needs much help in the polls. It doesn't even have to deal with hackers, as does the US government, whose "whitehouse.gov" site has been hacked yet again. All the parties have now revealed their IT plans, which range from "technology is good" to "Eh? What are you talking about, sonny?"

It wasn't a good week to be an Internet fraudster, with the FBI cracking down on spurious Beanie Baby sales and the like. Even so, fraud is still probably one of the few ways left of making a lot of dough on the Net, even if you do have to prey on the kind of people who would pay £500 for a stuffed toy.

In fact, illegal activity remains one of the boom sectors in the Internet economy. There are so many hack attacks nowadays that Attrition.org despairs of keeping track of them all, and has shut its doors.

As everyone knows, broadband only encourages evil hackers, and UK companies like British Telecommunications are doing their best to keep the hacking thing down by keeping people away from high-speed, always-on Internet connections. In fact ISPs say they're losing 50 percent of their possible revenues because of the failure of broadband so far. And now even Bill Gates has apparently lost the faith...

But there's always the wireless Net, right? Well, sort of. Actually, that's pretty much over, if opinion polls in the UK are anything to go by. People would rather go out and enjoy the nice weather than scroll through WAP restaurant guides, it seems.

BT is helping things out in its usual inimitable fashion by introducing a not-very-good GPRS service for consumers, as though to say, "Look, everybody! Wireless technology isn't that great after all, and won't be for years and years!" But BT again has altruistic motives at heart -- it's doubtless trying to protect us from the newly-discovered health risks of wireless data.

So, OK, if broadband and wireless are going to take a while to get there, what can we get excited about? The Internet-connected bra revealed by the Mail this week? Nah. I know -- how about interplanetary Internet communications? That's right, the brave new world of high-tech is going back to its roots in the space race. And after all, who'd want to go to Mars if it meant you couldn't check your email?

The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.

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