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What's Private, And What's Not? Ask Ibm

Bits & Bytes

What's Private, and What's Not? Ask IBM

In theory, privacy is a simple enough concept. But in practice, it can be terrifyingly complex. The U.S., for example, has no uniform policy to protect digital information, while Europe does.

As is often the case, angst equals consulting opportunity. On July 16, IBM launched one of the first high-tech consulting practices specializing in privacy. More than 1,400 consultants will help businesses struggling to understand and address the issue of collecting personal data electronically. It's a hot topic. As more corporations conduct their business electronically, they're worrying that any missteps with sensitive information could hurt consumer confidence. "Our customers say that a major privacy disaster would mean they'd have to close shop and reopen under another name," says Rebecca Whitener, an IBM consultant.

What will the consultants do? For starters, they'll run workshops laying out the issues. Then they'll do a complete privacy overhaul, identifying legal issues, assessing what data should be protected, how to set up and enforce policies--and, of course, they'll implement it all. The price tag: From $15,000 for a basic workshop up to $250,000 for the works.By IRA Sager; Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top

Cyberspace Turns to Outer Space

On the net, there are hobbyists of every stripe. But who would have guessed there are enough space buffs in cyberspace to fill, well, an astro-portal? None other than Lou Dobbs, the former anchor of CNN's Moneyline show, that's who.

Set to blast off on July 20--the 30th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's walk on the will offer astrobuffs everything from news on space exploration to live chats with astronauts. "It'll be the ultimate destination for space content," gushes CEO Dobbs, a space fanatic since childhood.

Dobbs thinks scads of folk will flock to He says 22,000 have preregistered for the ad-supported site. In the fall, will sell space-related merchandise, say a model rocket or a moon map.

Analysts worry that could be a black hole. "It'll be an uphill battle," says Chris Charron of Forrester Research Inc. But many agree that niche marketing is the cyberwave of the future. And when it comes to the future, Dobbs hopes nothing can beat the final frontier.By Andy Reinhardt; Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top

A New Tool in the Doctor's Bag: The Web

Your doctor still can't treat most illnesses over the internet, but Web users think health-care information online is getting more useful and easier to access, according to a new study by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Doctors' resistance to technology is breaking down--especially in Europe, says the Geneva-based foundation, whose code of conduct for medical sites is a widely used baseline for information quality and objectivity. The survey of almost 4,400 users of medical sites (most participants were medical professionals) reports that more than half of European caregivers among the sample group now use the Web to search for research information and new treatments, along with 43% of their American counterparts. But they are not welcoming America's proliferation of commercial health sites with open arms; instead, 67% prefer not-for-profit sites.

Celia Boyer, head of Web services for the foundation, says confidence is higher because more experienced surfers have the skills to avoid low-quality sites. "The longer you're on the Web, the more you know about what reliable information is," she says. But Web health information is still far from perfect--69% of respondents say quality needs to improve.Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top

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