Archive for month: October, 2008
A group that was, at one time, reportedly responsible for one-third of all the spam email sent was shut down by an investigation run by the Federal Trade Commission this week. A federal judge in Chicago issued a temporary injunction ordering the operation to immediately halt all spamming and false product claims. (Sun-Times)
HerbalKing allegedly sent billions of unsolicited messages to Internet users over the last 20 months, promoting replica watches, weight-loss drugs and herbal pills for male enhancement, according to the commission. The size of the operation was so vast that the FTC received more than 3-million complaints about the one organization.
The federal court agreed to freeze the assets of HerbalKing and ordered the spammers to close up shop. According to court documents, one of HerbalKing’s bot-net networks was made up of 35,000 computers and could send 10 billion email messages a day. It is possible that none of the 35,000 users knew that their PC had been hijacked for this purpose. The group based its Web sites in China, processed credit cards from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Cyprus, and transferred funds among members using ePassporte, an electronic money network. The group was shipping drugs like Propecia, Lipitor, Celebrex and Zoloft out of India. (New York Times)
The commission has brought more than 100 cases against spammers and spyware vendors over the past decade. But officials and investigators said this spam operation was perhaps the most extensive they had ever encountered, with ties to Australia, New Zealand, India, China and the United States. (Times)
I tend to doubt that we will notice the decline in spam from this one spammer. Because spamming seems to be incredibly profitable, there appears to be a new spammer ready to fill the void at any time. FTC investigators said they monitored the group’s finances closely and that it cleared $400,000 in Visa charges in one month alone.
Missouri Governor Matt Blunt has agreed today to provide archived emails at no cost to several media outlets that sued his administration. This is despite the fact that Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer had one said, "There is no statute or case that requires the state to retain individual’s e-mails as a public record." (Death By Email, October 2007)
Emails have been an issue since last year when a former governor’s legal counsel claimed he was fired for questioning whether messages were being deleted in violation of open-records laws. The Associated Press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star had intervened in a lawsuit brought by two court-appointed attorneys looking into email retention practices in the governor’s office. (AP)
It is bad enough that you have to watch what you write in your own email. Do you need to worry about what your wife writes on your behalf, too?
Prosecutors asked for emails by the wife of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens as part of a felony investigation on more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations. Prosecutors subpoenaed the law firm where Catherine Stevens works for the emails and other communications from Stevens’ wife to 37 people and companies, including the firm prosecutors alleged did the renovations. (UPI)
Defense attorneys told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan that the request was invalid under spousal privilege.
While drug company giant Pfizer was trying to promote the epilepsy drug Neurontin for other uses, including bipolar disorder and chronic nerve, it intentionally promoted favorable studies while suppressing research that did not support their efforts, according to emails and other documents just released. (New York Times) This "Caught By Email" episode is courtesy of emails released due to a potential class action case in U.S. District Court in Boston.
"We must delay publication of (the European study, called) 224, as its results were not positive," wrote Pfizer marketing executive John Marino in a September 2000 email to Angela Crespo, senior manager of major markets for Neurontin.
Later that month, Michael Rowbotham, Neurontin team leader, emailed Crespo about the problem of Dr. John Reckless, an investigator on the study who was pressing Pfizer to publish the results for ethical reasons. Along with delaying publication for as long as possible "it will be more important how WE write up the study," Rowbotham wrote. "We are not allowing him to write it up himself." (Boston Globe)
Another series of e-mails had the subject line “Spinning Serpell,” a reference to an investigator on the study, Michael Serpell of Glasgow, Scotland. In the e-mail exchange, a senior marketing manager for Pfizer and a professional medical writer discussed how to cast the results in a more favorable light for a poster presentation at a medical conference, the experts concluded, the Times writes.
“If Pfizer wants to use, present and publish this comparative data analysis in which two of the five studies compared make the overall picture look bad, how do we make it sound better than it looks on the graphs?” the medical writer asked.
In 2002, Angela Crespo, then Neurontin’s senior marketing manager, emailed an outside firm that was contracted to write up the study’s results: “We are not interested at all in having this paper published because it is negative!!” Pfizer declined to make the three employees in the emails available for interviews, according to The Wall Street Journal. (Pharmalot)
The emails above appear to show a proactive effort on the part of some individuals to make sure that only the good news got out.
Pfizer, however, issued a statement Tuesday to the paper denying it manipulated Neurontin data, saying “study results are reported by Pfizer in an objective, accurate, balanced and complete manner, with a discussion of the strengths and limitations of the study, and are reported regardless of the outcome of the study or the country in which the study was conducted.”
Alaska State Superior Court Judge Craig Stowers today ordered the administration of Gov. Sarah Palin to preserve emails she sent from her private Yahoo! email account dating back to December 2006. (The Public Record) This key Freedom of Information Act ruling, which could have national implications, emphasized two major points:
- Emails sent or received through personal email accounts are public records if they concern official state business. (Anchorage Daily News)
- It specifically ordered Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg to immediately contact Yahoo!, an out of state company, and to begin the process of preserving emails dating back to 2006 and retrieve all emails and attachments that may have been destroyed after Palin’s account was deactivated following the hack.
Stowers’ ruling did not ban the use of personal email accounts. Instead, these accounts may be used provided that the state can ensure the emails are properly saved and made accessible.
While dozens of states are having Freedom of Information Act and open records battles regarding email, this battle is likely to have national influence because of the national publicity given to Governor Palin during her run for vice president. It may set the tone for rulings in other states.
IBM announced the release of iNotes, a light application that allows Lotus Notes access to email, calendar and contacts from the iPhone. So what is the big deal? Didn’t Apple release an application that syncs with Microsoft Exchange months ago?
Actually, it is important from two points of view:
First, IBM created the application and placed it in the AppStore for no charge. Let me emphasize that IBM created the software. Apple created the Exchange software. This is a sign that IBM is seeing the importance of the iPhone in corporate messaging environments. (Warning to BlackBerry.)
Second, while most consumers say ho-hum to Lotus Notes, it remains the choice for about 40% of all major enterprises. This means that large organizations could embrace the Notes in a big way.
Since this was written by IBM for enterprise customers, this product seems aimed at those things that concern enterprise customers, such as security.
“The other products aren’t actually encrypting the data on the devices,” said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of Lotus software at IBM to the New York Times. “I think we were concerned about the security aspect, and this turned out to be the best approach.”
How did I miss the New York regional finals of the LG National Texting Championship earlier this month? 300 contestants banging out messages with their thumbs on tiny keyboards. Who is the winner — the man with the Golden Thumbs? It is a 14 year old high school student from Leonardstown, Maryland — William Glass. He claims to send 750 messages per month (or 25 a day). I keep thinking about how useful speed texting would be during exams.
I am blogging live from the MassTLC unConference in Burlington, MA. MassTLC is the Massachusetts Technology Leadership council, which was once the Mass Software Council. And, this is my first unConference — and it is great. It is probably the best conference that I have attended in years.
An unConference is a meeting of hundreds of people with a very loose agenda. In this case, the topic is "Fostering Entrepreneurship & Driving Innovation." People who have an interest in the topic sign up to meet in a common location. A few "experts" are named. Attendees offer suggestions as to what sessions should be held. And, then, the group decides on the agenda with sessions divided into various break-out rooms.
Today’s sessions included topics like how to get covered in the media, led by Boston Globe and Mass High Tech journalists, how to raise funds, led by VCs, how to do better marketing. There is a session this afternoon for people who have a great idea, but don’t know how to start a business. There are also sessions about technology and about trends.
The best part is that it is highly interactive. Forget the talking heads on the podium. If you have an idea or something to contribute, you speak. If the session is worthless, vote with your feet.
I love it. I love the concept. I love the content. I love the networking with some really cool people. As a matter of fact, I think I will go do more of that now. (I hope we have this conference more frequently than once per year.)