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Now You Can Byte Your Congressman

Bits & Bytes


ACTIVISTS ARE BEING asked to let their computer mice do the marching. Two nonprofit groups, Economic Security 2000 Action and Third Millennium, are sponsoring a cyberspace demonstration, an event called "the Billion Byte March." The effort, slated to kick off next month and end in early December, is aimed at pressuring Congress and the Clinton Administration to save the Social Security system by combining a form of the existing system with government-issued savings accounts for individuals.

The sponsors hope to rally support from grassroots organizations, think tanks, and business trade groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, which could encourage thousands of its members to join in. The goal is to enlist 250,000 to 1 million people to write individual E-mails, says Hillary Beard, executive director of Economic Security 2000 Action. "Nobody's really figured out how to use the Net effectively yet for political organizing," Beard says. This byte-march, she says, will be "a political experiment."

Participants will register at the group's Web site, www.march. org. Registration forms will be sorted by zip code and sent to the appropriate senators and representatives, with copies to President Clinton. The event will be "monitored" by volunteer "march marshals," who will contact co-workers, friends, and neighbors and ask them to sign up 100 other people. A new form of spam? Not quite, says Beard: "We're hoping for a new kind of access."EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top


SEX ON THE INTERNET. Having babies online. Compared with those experiences, sharing the trauma of turning 40 with 90 million of your closest friends should be no sweat. Inspired by a host of celebrities who are hitting the milestone birthday this year, including Jamie Lee Curtis and Sharon Stone, the Web site in August kicked off a section devoted entirely to the topic.'s Turning 40 offers interviews with birthday celebrants, including former Congresswoman Susan Molinari, as well as suggested books to buy about life after 40, advice on retiring early, and a poll on the big 4-0 experience. But the real draw is the site's bulletin boards, where women are engaging in heartfelt dialogue.

One thing isn't up for debate: The Turning 40 section is drawing a crowd. attributes a 20% jump in traffic in August--about 460,000 more visitors than the 2.3 million in July--to the popularity of the section. And visitors are leaving longer messages on the site than they typically do: about 400 words, vs. 100. "That just shows how passionately they are involved in this," says Ellen Pack, the site's founder.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top


SURVEY AFTER SURVEY reveals that consumers jealously guard their online privacy. But so far, industry and government efforts to prevent merchants from exploiting the massive amounts of data they can collect on Web surfers and online buyers have moved slowly. Now, a San Jose (Calif.) startup aims to give privacy power back to the people. In October, Privada Inc. plans to release a product, called Commerce Incognito, that will allow anonymous E-commerce transactions.

The software builds on a $25,000 piece of hardware, which Privada released in July, that allows Internet service providers to offer their customers anonymous E-mail. Privada's system plugs into an Internet service provider's network and uses a patent-pending method of separately encrypting transactions, billing, and personal data. That way, Internet merchants can be sure the product they're selling is paid for, and they can still track the anonymous shopper's buying and browsing behavior. But they can't track the buyer's identity without the buyer's permission, nor can they market that data to other companies. Merchants pay Privada $500 a year for software to receive transactions from customers.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top

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