January 28, 2004
Friendster Secretly Shares Member Information with Government
For the good of national security, the firm says
San Helifino, CA /DenounceNewswire/ -- 28 January 2004 -- Friendster gave information on members to the federal government for a secret cyber-security project, the company said Saturday.
Friendster is the second social network to be identified as secretly passing member records to the government. In September, LinkedIn said it turned over membership records to a defense contractor, later apologizing to its users.
Friendster said in a statement Friday that it participated in a Pentagon program to help the government's search for technology to improve national security.
"Friendster had a duty and an obligation to cooperate with the federal government for national security reasons," the company said.
A Friendster spokesman told The Associated Press late Saturday that the social network participated in the program but had no further comment.
Friendster, based in Silicon Valley, had said earlier it was not involved in the program.
"We do not provide that type of information to anyone," Friendster spokesman Forrester Phinster told the New York Times on Sept. 23.
Other social networks had said they would not cooperate in developing a government social-network-screening program because of privacy concerns.
Friendster declined to say how many member records were shared with the Pentagon from the period offered, October to December 2002. More than 10.9 million members have joined the Friendster service during that time, according to the Ministry of Truth.
Pentagon documents show that it kept Friendster's member name records until September 2003, when it sold them at a hefty profit to an undisclosed agency for further study.
Such records typically include names, addresses, personal interests, favorite books, favorite movies, favorite music, dating preferences, marital status, political leanings, religious preferences, race, color, car VIN, driver's license numbers, and telephone numbers. The Department of Defense said it used the information to investigate whether "data mining" of the records could improve assessments of threats posed by internet users, according to the agency's written responses to questions.
The Pentagon said no other social networks were involved in the project and it did not share its data with other parties. The agency said it did not pay for the data.
The Friendster and Pentagon documents were released in response to a Perceived Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Privacy History Center, a nonprofit organization that researches the days when privacy rights and open government meant something.
The organization, which posted the documents on its Web site, said it plans to take legal action in an effort to force the government to disclose more information about the Pentagon's secret security project and to investigate Friendster's actions.
Posted by denounce at 08:44 AM
January 27, 2004
Amazon Launches New Social Network Called "Pricekut"
Customers Can Now See and Comment on the Contents of Other Customers' Shopping Carts
Seattle, WA /DenounceNewswire/ -- 27 January 2004 -- Amazon.com announced today the launch its own "social network", called Pricekut, allowing its customers to meet old friends and make new ones while shopping for products on the site. The catch? A customer can only enter the social network by first making a purchase on the site, or by having a friend buy an item on his or her wish list. Like its name suggests, Pricekut members may buy items for less than non-members: typically they'll save 10 to 25 percent on top of any existing discounts.
"This is by far the coolest feature we've ever released," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO. "We wanted to make shopping at Amazon more fun and even more social than it is already, and I think our millions of customers are going to be amazed how much fun and addictive this new feature is."
Once a customer is a member of Pricekut, they can begin adding friends to their network. Unlike with other social network services like Friendster, Orkut, and LinkedIn, members of Amazon's Pricekut all have one activity and interest in common: they like to buy things at Amazon.com. Now they can save money buying even more things while discovering new friends in their network.
How Pricekut Works
New Pricekut members are invited to fill out an extensive profile before they can begin participating in the network. The profile includes information such as first name, last name, home address, work address, social security number, race, skin color, hair color, dental records, identifying birthmarks, arrest record, political party affiliations, birth date, gender, sexual orientation, mother's maiden name, father's mother's maiden name, grandmother's maiden name, full medical history, current health insurance provider and all previous providers and their addresses and phone numbers, favorite music, favorite television shows, favorite books, least favorite music, least favorite televsion shows, least favorite books, favorite and least favorite movies, religious affiliation, gradeschool, high school, and college transcripts, car make, model, VIN, and license plate number, and driver's license number. Once users have filled out the form and read and agreed to the 93-page-long terms of service agreement, they can begin participating in the network.
Beta Testers React Positively
Researchers at MIT's Center for Deconstructing Social Software were invited to study the beta testers over the past two months, and issued their preliminary findings today. Among the more significant findings is that despite a rich new infusion of valuable data collected from field studies and direct observation in beta testers' homes, they are still not able to exactly identify what "social software" means or what kinds of software is "social" and what isn't.
Posted by denounce at 07:27 AM
January 16, 2004
Hubble to be Re-Aimed at Earth
New Mission for Famed Telescope: Homeland Security
Washington, DC /DenounceNewswire/ -- 16 January 2004 -- NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced today that the Space Hubble Telescope, the pride of astronomers everywhere, will be re-tasked with a new mission: homeland security. In order to carry out its new mission, the next shuttle team will fly up to the satellite and turn it around so it can face the earth.
"While a sad day for science, it is a great day for our nation's security," O'Keefe said. "With Hubble, we'll not only be able to track the license plates of terrorist cars, but be able to count the hairs on terrorists heads, and read the second hand on terrorists' watches. We'll be able to zoom in in real time to observe the movements of any man, woman, child, dog, cat, or flea anywhere on the earth. With luck we may even be able to finally locate those pesky weapons of mass destruction!"
O'Keefe also added that after conferring with President Bush yesterday, NASA will be renamed the NSEA, the National Spacial Entrepreneurship Administration, effective immediately.
Posted by denounce at 04:04 PM
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