NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Making new friends

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Making new friends

Amber made a new friend and her name is Layla. The other night I took Amber out to dinner in North Beach to make up for my little fake lottery ticket trick. Not five minutes after getting out of a cab, my mobile rang. It was a woman named Layla, saying she found Amber's purse in the cab that just dropped us off.

Microsoft see, Microsoft do

Well, despite Yahoo being slammed in this column and many others for altering its spam-filtering settings unbeknownst to users, only to follow up with an e-mail after the fact, a spy reports Microsoft has followed suit with Hotmail. My spy said Team Redmond is now sharing names and other personal information with third parties, even if users said they didn't want that when they signed up. Ironically, this comes from the same company that has sworn up and down that it would not, under any conditions, share or use the personal data it collects from its HailStorm Web services.

Speaking of sharing information, a spy reports Verizon is having difficulty keeping user information private. My spy received a Verizon mailer touting its "American Adventure" ad campaign, which explained how you can win a fabulous vacation by merely visiting Verizon's Web site, typing in your "destination code" from the mailer, and following the instructions.

Knowing that the "destination code" was linked to his address, yet wishing to remain anonymous, my spy entered a destination code that was a few numbers shy of his own. After pressing Submit, he was shown someone else's name and address belonging to the entered destination code. He returned to the first page and entered the next sequential destination code, which brought up another valid name and address. Every sequential number entered brought up a different customer's name and address.

Ol' licensing blues

Big Blue, which typically succeeds at appearing squeaky clean, has come to the attention of one of my spies. Amid a national computer "refresh", Madame Spy configured the machines she wanted on IBM's Web site and sent the information to her project coordinator, who called immediately asking where the prices came from. It turns out that IBM had faxed Ms Coordinator a price sheet for all its computers and add-ons with prices higher than those on the Web site. Volume discounts may have a new meaning.

We had Layla over for dinner as a way to repay her kindness. Turns out she is a psychic, or so she says. "I see eight children in your future," she told us. Amber seemed even more petrified than I. I think she actually believes that woman.

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