June 2, 2006 10:30 AM PDT
Week in review: Keeping watch over Web surfing
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said that requiring Internet service providers to save records of their customers' online activities is necessary in the fight against terrorism. Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller privately met with representatives of AOL, Comcast, Google, Microsoft and Verizon last week and said that Internet providers--and perhaps search engines--must retain data for two years to aid in antiterrorism prosecutions
"We want this for terrorism," Gonzales said, according to one person familiar with the discussion.
If the European Union's approach were adopted, Internet companies would be required to save logs showing the identities of e-mail and, perhaps, instant messaging correspondents in addition to data about which customer was assigned which Internet address.
If data retention becomes viewed primarily as an antiterrorism measure, recent legal and political spats could complicate the Justice Department's efforts to make it standard practice. Gonzales' earlier position had emphasized only how mandatory data retention would help thwart child exploitation.
ISPs and telecommunications companies expressed concern about the feasibility of recording Americans' online activities.
"We have real reservations about data retention requirements because of the security and privacy risks attached to it," said Mark Uncapher, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America. ITAA's board members include representatives of AT&T, Sybase, Fujitsu and Unisys.
CNET News.com readers predicted a loss of privacy and personal freedom, and also questioned the administration's motives.
"The Justice Dept couldn't get this proposal approved, so they switched to their all-purpose backup, terrorism," one News.com reader wrote on the TalkBack forum.
More views of Vista
Microsoft's new operating system, which won't arrive for consumers until early next year, has a new collaboration feature that allows laptops to share information with other, nearby machines. The underlying technology is known as "People Near Me" and is being used by Microsoft for its own software projects and by other developers. The company has built one program based on it into Vista--Windows MeetingSpace--that lets people share and view files.
MeetingSpace is designed with a couple of situations in mind. First is the scenario where people meet up at a coffeehouse and want to share data with one another. The other might be at a business, where several people are in a meeting and want to be able to view and edit a presentation together.
With the new version of Windows, Microsoft has created an operating system that offers advances in many areas, but laptop battery life is not one of them. Going by internal tests at one hardware maker, which declined to be named, there is noticeably lower battery life when Vista runs in its "average power" mode.
Microsoft has said that the current versions of the update deliver less battery life than Windows XP, but the company has also said it hopes to close the gap in the coming months. Even so, any lowering in battery life is a blow to the rest of the PC industry. Manufacturers have found it a struggle to boost the battery life of notebook computers, even as they've made easy advances in other areas, such as disk space and processor performance.
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