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Companies that leak confidential information about their customers and think they'll win back their loyalty with a notice of disclosure and an apology should think again. A new study conducted by The Ponemon Institute indicates that about 23 million adults in the U.S. received notification from a firm reporting their personal information had been lost in the past 12 months. Even more significant is the customer churn that resulted from these disclosures. MSNBC reports that about 1 in 5 of those surveyed said they had discontinued their relationship with the company involved, and about 40% said they were considering a similar move. Said one banking consultant: "If millions of adults shift their company loyalty after a disclosure letter, that's a real eye-opener."

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Addictive Hackers

Some methamphetamine addicts are using the Net to commit identity theft, according to law enforcement agents and medical experts in the U.S. and Canada. Often adept at stealing personal information from mailboxes to finance drug habits, they are now hacking PCs to steal information. USA Today reports meth addicts also participate in phishing email scams and selling stolen goods on auction sites. Many are employed by ID theft rings run by non-drug users. Experts say the drug's effects make users especially eager ID thieves; addicts can stay up for days performing menial tasks, such as testing credit card numbers on Web sites and buying goods online. The medical director of a Northern California drug treatment center recalls touring several meth houses where hacking tasks were divided among more than a dozen people and found stolen goods such as PCs, digital cameras, and car parts, stacked from floor to ceiling.


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Fish's Tale

A new breed of robotic fish is currently a main attraction at the London Aquarium, and may one day be used to explore seabeds, detect leaks in underwater oil pipelines, or even function as underwater spies. Unlike previous generations of fishbots, this one is autonomous, swimming around a specially designed tank, mingling with real fish, entirely of its own accord, reports BBC News. A research team from Essex University took three years to develop the new cyberfish, claiming the breed to be the smartest yet. The bots, inspired by the common carp and sporting bright scales that reflect light, house embedded sensors, making them purely autonomous and AI-based. The research team now plans to increase their intelligence so an individual machine is able to recharge itself as required.

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A Gamer's Life

Here's a story of two cultures struggling against the same forcecomputer games. In a country with the world's highest per-capita rate (70%) of broadband connectivity, many of South Korea's 17 million gamers are not only obsessed, they border on an addiction of alarming proportion. Gaming has become all-consuming; for some it has raised serious physical and mental health concerns. The Associated Press reports Korean gamers, mostly teenage males, will sit at Internet cafes for hourseven dayson end, typically living on cups of instant noodles and cigarettes, barely sleeping, and seldom washing. In fact, a 28-year-old man died last August after playing computer games for nearly 50 hours straight. Although the Korean government is funding the world's first stadium dedicated to e-games (ETA 2008), physicians working with e-sport teams recommend gamers rest 10 minutes with eyes closed after every five matches.

In India, where outsourcing has become a lucrative way of life, attempts to be recognized as a major player in the computer games arena have been frustrating. With the cell phone games market alone representing a multibillion-dollar goldmine, Indian companies have found it difficult to hire creative programmers who understand and enjoy computer games. "Very few Indians grow up playing games because they are too busy studying and thinking about their future," explains Bangalore-based entrepreneur Rajesh Rao, one of a small, but growing, breed trying to help make India a viable option for developing games for mobile phones, computers, and consoles. Indeed, Rao lets new employees play computer games for the first two or three weeks on the job "so they will get hooked."

That was the hardest day of my life. I felt like I was missing my arm. I never want to do that again. Please do not ask me to do that again."No Phone Day participant Pinky, age 10, Deltona, FL, after living 24 hours without a cell phone.

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Rankings Irk Profs

Much to the irritation of a growing number of professors across the U.S. and Canada, a six-year-old Web site that archives student critiques of the most- and least-liked profs has never been more popular. The RateMyProfessor database currently stores more than four million ratings from 5,000 institutions. reports the site has become a staple for many college students when choosing classes. Moreover, university administrators use it to check a professor's teaching capability when considering grants of tenure, promotions, and raises. The trouble with this resource, critics contend, is accuracy is hardly a given. And now it appears the student who created the site in 1999 may soon be laughing all the way to the bank. Founder John Swapceinski, a former San Jose State student now juggling a day job as a Java programmer while continuing to steward the site, is expected to sign an agreement to sell the database to a book-trading startup for a price in the seven figures.

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©2005 ACM  0001-0782/05/1200  $5.00

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Article Contents:
  • Consumers Strike Back
  • Addictive Hackers
  • Fish's Tale
  • A Gamer's Life
  • Rankings Irk Profs
  • Author
  • Figures
  • ACM Resources