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Privacy back-and-forths

The Halifax bank has issued unsuspecting customers with trial wave-and-pay RFID-enabled bank cards. As Reg reader Pete found out, it can be hard to extricate yourself from this unasked-for privilege.

A US federal judge has banned company AccuSearch from selling customers' phone records without their permission and ordered the company to pay nearly $200,000.

The Information Commissioner's Office put the kibosh on any plans to record conversations using CCTV cameras, labelling the idea intrusive and unnecessary.

But privacy advocates shouldn't break out the champagne just yet. It seems unlikely that privacy laws will be overhauled in the wake of the HM Revenue and Customs data loss debacle.

The spy game

Continuing in the vein of threats to privacy, a US presidential directive expands the National Security Agency's ability to spy on other government agencies.

But it's not just the White House reaching for records upon records. The UK government issued more than 250,000 licences to snoop in the last nine months of 2006.

ID cards target the young

Despite setbacks such as bidders cautiously backing away from the project, ID cards are still rumbling forward, with plans announced to force people applying for their first driving licence to get one. Yep, young'ins and their teachers are the first targets for ID card pressure, but we can doubtless expect later diversification.

A leak from the Immigration and Passport Service this week suggested that a central fingerprint database may be abandoned, though the IPS was quick to deny the claims.

They might not need a prints register, however, if Glasgow boffins are on the money with their completely accurate facial recognition software. But it seems doubtful that it can be that good.

Gov IT continues true to form

The Department for Transport's IT projects, taken together, are a total of 23 years late and £100m over-budget. The Lib Dems totalled up the delays and cost overruns and proceeded to wag their fingers.

Meanwhile, a system to link UK intelligence agencies with other government departments has gone live two years late. It has already suffered a 'serious process failure' resulting in the loss of operational data.

But the government isn't alone in losing data. Marks & Spencers has been forced to encrypt all company laptops containing personal information by April 2008, after losing a laptop containing records relating to 26,000 staff.

Company money reports

Several companies are pleased with themselves this week. Phoenix saw a 16 per cent revenue increase in its third quarter, T-Mobile shifted more than 70,000 iPhones (while O2sweetens its iPhone tariff), and Sandisk reported a fourth quarter profit of $105.8m, compared to a $35m loss in the same period last year.

But not everyone is in such giddy spirits. Yahoo! is to axe 4,000 jobs, as its Q4 profits plummet 23 per cent. In all, the company will lose seven per cent of its workforce. VMWare has had to face the music as sales dipped below expectations and its share price accordingly crashed more than 25 per cent to $61. But Maxima is hurting even worse, with shares dropping by nearly 40 per cent on the back of a profits warning about its forthcoming first-half results. And EMC must be wondering just what it takes to impress the market, for its share price has fallen despite an impressive performance in the fourth quarter.

Google makes spammers feel lucky

It seems Google's "I'm feeling lucky" feature, intended to save web searchers time, is allowing spammers to get around anti-spam products. Emails containing links to Google searches using the feature and directing to iffy sites look far more innocent than direct links.

CGT and banking

The capital gains tax has had a lot of attention lately, but why was it changed in the first place? We looked at the in-and-outs of what the CGT was meant to achieve.

In other financial news, London banks are expected to endure tighter controls after the Société Générale debacle, when a rogue trader cost the French bank nearly €5bn. It has emerged that the trader, Jerome Kerviel, used co-workers' access codes and low-tech hacking techniques to set up fraudulent transactions.

Buying and selling

Nokia acquired mobile Linux developer Trolltech this week, in a Google-challenging play towards open-source mobile development.

Paypal meanwhile picked up Israeli security analysis firm Fraud Sciences Limited for $170m. FSL's products are expected to be used on Paypal and eBay sites to increase the security of transactions.

BSkyB will have to flog off its stake in ITV, following advice from the Competition Commission that cross-ownership would reduce competition between the rival broadcasters. And Sun has managed to scrounge up some actual buyers for its white trash data centres.

Google Malaysia

Malaysia's PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been trumpeting plans for Google to build the world's largest data centre in the country, but this won't mean a jobs bonanza. What, then, is so great about it?

Logica boss splits

LogicaCMG's chief operating officer Jim McKenna is to leave the company after fourteen years of loyal service. He will become chairman of Azurri Communications and chairman of charity Rainer.

Courting disaster

In the courts, MySpace has won the domain myspace.co.uk, even though it predates the social networking company's inception.

Meanwhile, the European Supreme Court ruled that lower authorities are not required by EU law to force ISPs to disclose customer information. National laws can still enforce this though.

Vodafone is taking Ofcom to court over the regulator's call for mobile operators to let customers change their number to another network within two hours.

The Pirate Bay remained defiant in the face of a court case filed in Sweden by public prosecutor Hakan Roswall against four men involved in the running of the torrent tracker site. The men are accused of being accessories to breaking copyright law.

The High Court has approved the patenting of software programs. Make sure you pay your royalties.

But philanthropist and software megalomaniac Bill Gates has some pertinent advice to those wishing to avoid a legal quagmire: don't get sued. Especially if you don't deserve it.

The misery of it all

In the face of all this, one can be forgiven for feeling a little depressed, especially if one is 44, which researchers at the University of Warwick have identified as the year we are most likely to hit the depths of despair. Makes sense. You've lost your youthful charms, but retirement is still a way off. There's nothing for it but getting that Ferarri and matching blonde you've had your eye on.

But if you live in California there's another way to mellow out: the state has deployed dope-vending machines. A prescription is required though, so it's probably time to make friends with a doctor.

We'll be back next week, assuming this forged prescription passes inspection. ®

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