Many people get a thrill when they look for their names
on the Internet and something actually comes up. That
is not always the case when the information or the photograph
recalls some past embarrassment or humiliation.
A friend of mine used to be a frequent user of an online
dating service. When a fellow reporter was looking for
sources on a Web dating story, I set the two up for
an interview. Somewhere they experienced a communications
breakdown: She didn't want her last name used, but it
got into the article anyway.
I never got the straight story on how this happened.
What I do know is that every time she entered her name
into the Google search engine, the No. 1 entry -- even
a year later -- highlighted her enthusiasm for online
dating. She didn't mind her friends and relatives seeing
that kind of information, but she was more than a little
unhappy when she discovered that prospective employers
"Googling" her could start with a concise
and prominent summary of her dating proclivities.
A new business directory service that debuted this
week will try to give people like my friend more power
over what the Web has to say about them. ZoomInfo ,"
developed by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Zoom Information
Inc. , searches the Web for public information about
people and corporations, then allows them to edit their
profiles. "With us, you have the ability to ...
present yourself how you want to be presented,"
Russell Glass , ZoomInfo's director of consumer products,
told the Associated Press .
ZoomInfo's 25 million profiles -- consisting of work
history, education, current position, business affiliations
and other unspecified information -- won't clean up
unwanted results for Googlees. "But since search
engines display the most relevant results first, a well-constructed
ZoomInfo profile will be the first -- or among the first
-- choices that appear," Glass told the AP. In
its news release , Zoom Information claims Microsoft
Corp. , Nike Inc. , Oracle Corp. , Pfizer Inc. , Raytheon
Co. and Staples Inc. among its customers.
The wire service quoted several skeptics who worry
about the privacy implications of such services: "
Preston Gralla , co-author of 'The Complete Idiot's
Guide to Internet Privacy and Security,' compared it
to unknowingly being trailed through public places by
a private detective. 'Just because [the information]
is publicly available, it's still difficult for anybody
to put together,' Gralla said. 'Just the act of collecting
all this information, you could consider it an invasion
Plenty of people probably will, but more -- especially
those with common names -- should get a kick out of
finding their 15 microseconds of fame on Page 1 rather
than Page 45 of their "ego search." I was
happy to see that I beat the hell out of the competition,
coming in as the No. 1 result for the search term "Robert
MacMillan." Sometimes that's more difficult on
other search engines where I'm up against the "Love
of Christ" columnist Robert MacMillan , the pulp
fiction Robert MacMillan and Robert MacMillan, the ninth
president of the Blackface Sheep Breeders' Association
from 1927 to 1928.
And hopefully, my friend will find more possible employers
turning to these services, which should edge that Washington
Post article out of the pole position.
Side note on ZoomInfo: A Seattle Times news roundup
notes that ZoomInfo was created with an unknown amount
of money from Vulcan Capital , the venture capital company
owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen . The Times
staff also took ZoomInfo out for field tests, but reported
negative results: "Here at the Download offices,
we tried to help Allen improve his own Web identity
by having fun with his resume. We were able to add the
job title Star Fleet Mission Director and language fluency
in Romulan and Klingon to his profile. Strangely enough,
these changes didn't show up when we refreshed the browser."
Hillary Clinton: Caught in the Act
I recently wrote an article about the political world's
fascination with Web video. Many campaign professionals
want to know how they can channel it to build good buzz
for their candidates -- or bad buzz for opponents. But
surely there must be a more sophisticated way than this:
"As [Republican] U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
was traveling through Central Texas on Tuesday to raise
awareness of the oldest trails in the state, a video
clip was being circulated via e-mail showing U.S. Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton telling a group she's 'delighted
that' Hutchison 'is my partner on so many important
fronts,'" the Austin American-Statesman reported.
A Hutchison spokesman blamed minions of Gov. Rick Perry
(R), who they said wants the senator to forsake any
notion of challenging his reelection.
The reporter quoted Republican consultant Royal Masset
as saying the video is "kind of goofy." "What
are you supposed to do -- not hang around Democrats
at all? Unfortunately, we live in an age when anyone
can e-mail anything," Masset told the paper. Maybe
it would work in the 22nd District .
That story pairs nicely with a report from the BBC
, which says e-mail is underused in British politics.
"The survey, commissioned by Telewest Business
, found that only 1 percent of people have contacted
their [member of Parliament] via e-mail," the Beeb
reported. "Nearly half of the 3,000 people interviewed
had home Net access and 38 percent said they would e-mail
their MP if they knew their address. But 50 percent
did not even know who their local MP was."
Here's more from the news service: "In a separate
study, conducted at Strathclyde University , it was
found that access to the Internet has failed to make
people less cynical about the government and is not
encouraging people to get involved in the political
process." See? Even after almost 229 years of separation,
we still take after our friends across the pond.
Vonage Invited to Texas Two-Step
In an emergency, most Americans immediately think to
dial 911. They might have to think differently if they're
using Internet telephone service. The state of Texas
yesterday sued Vonage , claiming that the Net phone
company failed to disclose that it does not include
access to traditional emergency services. State Attorney
General Greg Abbott (R) filed the lawsuit after Houston
resident Joyce John tried and failed to reach 911 when
two men attacked and shot her parents last month, the
Houston Chronicle reported.
"When ... John's mother yelled to her to call
911, her effort was met with a voice recording that
told her no emergency access was available on that line
and she must use another phone," the paper reported.
"Greater Harris County 911 Emergency Network Executive
Director John Melcher ... said the problem is that Vonage
and some other Internet-based telephone providers don't
interconnect with the 911 network. Their customers do
not pay the 50-cents-per-phone-number fee that traditional
phone and cell phone customers are charged to support
the 911 system."
A Vonage representative told the paper that the company
displays its 911 policies on its Web site, and that
it wants to work with Texas to address the state's concerns.
The spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that the
company requires customers to set up 911 service separately,
but does not charge extra to do it. And in case you
were wondering, both parents survived, the Times reported.
Reuters reported that Internet phone service is experiencing
problems with identity theft too: "The emerging
scams underline the lower level of security protecting
Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, the Internet-calling
standard that has upended the telecommunications industry
over the past several years. Traditional phone networks
operate over dedicated equipment that is difficult for
outsiders to penetrate. Because VoIP calls travel over
the Internet, they cost much less but are vulnerable
to the same security problems that plague e-mail and
Beaten by Singapore
The United States has fallen from first to fifth place
in making the best use of information and communications
technology, according to a new report from the World
Economic Forum . The new leader, according to the AP
: Singapore , where your options as a young boy are
the computer or the cane (search for "Michael Fay").
Now there's a way to whip up performance ... "Augusto
Lopez-Claros, co-editor of the report, praised Singapore
for its ability 'to make, in a relatively short period
of time, enormous progress in putting [the technology]
at the service of improved living standards.'"
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