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"She wants to go shopping. She wants to take a walk in the park. She wants to do the things that normal people do."

--Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, William GinsburgEDITED BY ROBERT McNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

IF YOUR PRIVACY'S INVADED...TOUGH LUCK

A LITTLE BIT OF PRIVACY protection may be better than no protection at all. But under an industry plan to keep personal data from being sold indiscriminately, a little protection may be all consumers get.

Pressured by Congress, the Individual Reference Services Group (IRSG)--which includes Trans Union, Equifax Credit Information, and LEXIS-NEXIS, among others--has set privacy standards. By 1999, its members won't sell Social Security numbers, mothers' maiden names, birth dates, credit histories, unlisted phone numbers, or information on people's children to the public--only to "qualified subscribers."

However, who is "qualified" is open to interpretation, while the effectiveness of safeguards against shifty operators is unclear. The IRSG plan carries no penalties for noncompliant companies.

The industry itself admits that this last-ditch defense against government regulation is far from complete. "Is this the whole answer? I don't think so," says Ronald Plesser, an industry lawyer with the firm Piper & Marbury. However, the FTC has promised that the IRSG plan will forestall government regulation--at least for the time being.Roy FurchgottReturn to top

TASTY MATCH FOR TASTELESS TAB

HERE'S A STRANGE COUPLE for you: On one hand there is LEXIS-NEXIS, a serious database of magazines and newspapers where lawyers, journalists, and academics can cozy up to such page-turners as the Far Eastern Economic Review and Intellectual Property Today. On the other hand is the New York Post, a flashy tabloid newspaper famed for such artfully nuanced headlines as: MADMAN MOHAMAR NOW A DRUGGIE DRAG QUEEN.

Well, last month the two were hitched when LEXIS-NEXIS agreed to include the tattling tab among its 13,800 sources. The deal, which was six months in the making, should bring the money-losing Post--part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.--thousands of dollars in royalties each year.

A spokeswoman for LEXIS-NEXIS, owned by Dutch publisher Reed Elsevier, said that the New York Post was added because customers asked for it.

The Post joined LEXIS-NEXIS on Jan. 22, two days after the Clinton sex scandal broke and just in time for such headlines as THE BIG CREEP TOLD ME TO LIE and MONICA'S LOVE DRESS to make it into the database of record. Post Editor-in-Chief Ken Chandler says that "it's just one of those wonderful acts of timing."Dennis BermanReturn to top

WHAT'S IN A NAME? HOW ABOUT $10 MILLION

THE POWERS THAT BE AT software maker Network Associates have discovered that someone else has first dibs on their name. That's bad enough. What really hurts is that the someone else is a public-relations firm that represents its rival, Symantec.

This is no small oversight. After the former McAfee Associates bought Network General last year and changed the company's name to Network Associates, it shelled out $10 million for wacky commercials to promote the name change. One expensive ad even aired during the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, it turns out that a Utah PR firm was already called Network Associates. And that firm represents Symantec, another big maker of antiviral software. This Network Associates has a simple solution to the confusion: It wants the software maker to change its name.

The software company did not turn up the PR firm in its trademark search because it's in another industry. That could get it off the hook. But it's not backing down, either--not with $10 million on the line. Both companies are negotiating to avoid a lawsuit, which would be called--what else?--Network vs. Network.Steve HammReturn to top


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