Skip to main content
One Degree of Separation

‘One Degree of Separation’ is the Microsoft advertisement showing on the television in my living room. “What does that mean Daddy”, asks my daughter and I try and explain, with the help of my Compaq IPAQ.

“Once upon a time there was a man called Bill and he had a magic .Net….”

But her question led me to think of something else. An important subject, close to my heart, which readers tell me is important to them too.
I know that the good people at Microsoft pay attention to this column and so I’m going to ask you to pay particular attention to this request on the part of concerned Hotmail users everywhere.

Hotmail and MSN Messenger are an important part of my life, both inside and outside of work. With it, I can, sitting in my room at the Kuwait Sheraton, easily chat, to the people in my office or a friend in Vancouver. Web-based mail is a great tool as is Instant Messaging, whether it be Microsoft’s or anyone else’s but most of the people I know use Hotmail, so full marks to Microsoft for making it an indispensable part of the human experience.

But Hotmail has a problem. Not a security problem for once but an every growing spam problem. And yes, Microsoft has an anti-spam policy and filters and an ‘exclusion’ list option but this filled up over a year ago in my own case.

Most of my Hotmail is rubbish or filth or both and many of you tell me you have the same problem. It’s gradually getting worse and more explicit in its content. I can see that the spammers are using a name generation engine, so if your Hotmail address is Y$%Z@Hotmail.Com, then you may not be bothered that much but if you have a proper name or combination of surname and first name, then you’re fair game.

Microsoft, I have a family and a little girl and there is no way on earth that I’m going to let her near her own Hotmail address, until you use your considerable ingenuity to tighten-up your spam filter and add some kind of parental control mechanism that can automatically trash any incoming mail with the following words……!
No I won’t include them here but ask me and I’ll give you a list that would make a paratrooper blush.

The others of course are “Debt”, “Loan”, “Vacation”, “Mortgage”, “Won” “Viagra”, “Herbal”, “Congratulations”, and “Prize”. In fact if we all got together, I’m sure we could come up with a small volume to present to MSN.

A good 25% of the mail I receive each day is spam but the really unpleasant stuff invariably comes through Hotmail. Here’s an ideal opportunity for Microsoft, not to exercise censorship but demonstrate leadership and common sense before we all suffocate beneath a sinister tide that exploits our identities and threatens our sensibilities.
So Microsoft, are you going to help us resist or simply use the “Best Efforts” defense? I think you could do a great deal more and win friends by doing it.

So will you?


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …