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Congress urged to protect Net privacy

The US Federal Trade Commission is asking Congress for legislation to shield the privacy of young Net users, as an increasing number of companies have been targeting children online, offering prizes and other rewards to children who share their names, ages and family information.

According to the commission's findings, in the year since the Clinton administration called for self-regulation of the Internet, only 14 per cent of 1,400 sites it examined told visitors that the site gathered and traded in personal information. Among children's sites, while 89 per cent collected personal information, little more than half disclosed what they do with it and only 23 per cent advised children to get permission before giving their details. Seven per cent said they notified parents of data collection practices. Under 10 per cent of the sites gave parents any control over how data about their children was collected and used.

The FTC is recommending that Congress pass legislation to ensure that websites and database companies obtain parental permission before collecting and selling children's personal information.

Microsoft to preview Internet Explorer 5

At the TechEd conference in New Orleans last week, Microsoft said that it would be releasing a preview version of Internet Explorer 5 this month to encourage developers and programmers to add functions supported by the new browser.

The interface of the preview version is almost identical to IE4. New features include enhanced drag-and-drop functions to make electronic commerce more intuitive and data exchange between applications simpler. Tools to optimise the way in which particular PCs download Web pages, depending on the detection of variables such as processor speed and whether Java is enabled, will be included.

Dynamic HTML is being pushed as a means of cutting down the time Web programmers spend on coding. Microsoft also said that they would try to increase stability and performance.

Merced chip on hold as Katmai gets a boost

Intel is delaying production of its next-generation computer chip, code- named Merced, by at least six months although it is accelerating the release of Katmai processors. The initial Katmai chip, which will run at 500MHz, will come out in the first quarter of 1999, rather than the second quarter.

The Katmai chip, with its new set of instructions - referred to by many in the industry as MMX2, offers improved performance of multimedia applications, including 3D graphics and full-motion video.

The Merced chip, intended for high-end workstations and servers, will be the first to use a 64-bit instruction set instead of the current 32- bit. However, Intel said that although it and Hewlett Packard had been working on designing the chip for several years, they had underestimated how much time would be needed to test the chip before it can ship it to customers. Volume production will be delayed to the middle of the year 2000.

`Genius award' for the Web's inventor

Tim Berners-Lee, the London-born inventor of the World Wide Web, last week was awarded $270,000 as one of the recipients of the annual "genius grants" given by the MacArthur Foundation to individuals that it feels have demonstrated genius and creativity to society's benefit.

"I didn't even know about the programme or what the MacArthur Foundation was," said the 43-year-old Berners-Lee, who proposed the system that would later become known as the Web while working at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva in the Seventies. "I didn't know it was going to succeed the way it has."