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Cyberspies; Fathers and Sons


That's our scenario, and we're sticking to it: I feel obligated to point out a couple problems with Peter Byrne's "fictional scenario," in which federal agents are able to track and apprehend an international terrorist by tracking his computer on the Internet ("The Spybots Among Us," Dec. 19).

First of all, terrorists do not edit their secret plans with Microsoft Office. If our hypothetical terrorist were indeed that stupid, we would not need the NSA to catch him, and he would certainly not be in league with the organizations that proved themselves capable of pulling off a direct attack on the nerve center of the United States military.

Mr. Byrne also seemed to gloss over the fact that the government isn't spying on him because they think he's a terrorist. It's spying on him because he visited "politically extreme" Web sites and received e-mail from other "terrorists," a classification that apparently now includes WTO protesters and almost anyone else with a dissenting opinion. If the NSA is trying to catch terrorists this way, it's no wonder our buildings are getting blown to hell. The feds aren't interested in terrorists any more than they are interested in mobsters and child pornographers, who served as the NSA's poster children before the Sept. 11 attacks. They are interested in Americans who think for themselves. I guess they won't be planting any spyware on Mr. Byrne's computer anytime soon.

Name Withheld
South of Market

Private matters: Peter Byrne's feature included a sidebar article, "Can You Stop the Bots?" This sidebar contains numerous errors about Zone Labs' technology, partnerships, and marketing efforts. In particular, the accusation that Zone Labs releases customer information to our business partners is 100 percent false. On Dec. 11, Mr. Byrne contacted Zone Labs to fact-check his article. During this fact check, we let Mr. Byrne know that his assumptions about our sharing customer information with our partners were false. We provided him with backup information, including our privacy policy, which is, of course, publicly available on our Web site. We are extremely disappointed that Mr. Byrne chose to include blatantly incorrect information in the article.

All of us feel strongly about our privacy, and the privacy of our personal information. Zone Labs respects the privacy of our customers and the information they share with us. Mr. Byrne's careless journalism not only impacts our company but also the trust our customers place with us. It is unfortunate that he chose to twist the facts in the pursuit of a sidebar.

The ultimate irony is Mr. Byrne choosing to present Zone Labs as a spyware enabler, when our software actually prevents spyware from functioning.

Te Smith
Director, Corporate Communications
Zone Labs Inc.
South of Market

Peter Byrne replies: Zone Labs' statement of privacy says the company asks people for personal information at several points on its Web site (including when users download and register the free firewall software). "If you choose to provide Personally Identifiable Information, and give us permission [by selecting the "Inform me about important updates and news' option], then we will use this information to send you communications [including] paid advertisements from third parties."

The policy states that Zone Alarm "logs IP addresses for statistical purposes. ... We will periodically share aggregate demographic information with our business partners. IP addresses are not linked to Personally Identifiable Information."

In a taped interview in October 2001, Gregor Freund, Zone Labs CEO, told SF Weekly, "I don't have a problem if someone says, 'I'm going to give you a free piece of software and in return you are going to look at these ads.' If this is the only deal, that's fine. And if they tell you, 'In order to make money on the ads I'm going to tell my advertisers, maybe not your name, but I'm going to tell them what your job is, what your income is,' that's a fair deal."

Fathers and Sons

Why "Kennedyesque" is an insult: Peter Byrne's Dog Bites comparison of Jack Kennedy and Gavin Newsom was grossly unfair to the Newsoms, certainly as far as the category of "Provenance" is concerned ("Apples and Oranges," Dec. 19).

Joe Kennedy was, among his myriad other problems, a child abuser, a gangster, and a Nazi sympathizer. By any definition of the word, he was slime.

Justice Bill Newsom, on the other hand, is one of the most distinguished and honorable men ever produced in California. Just recently, for example, he resigned from a plush state committee in protest over the governor's behavior, which Newsom considered not in the public interest. (He's also one of the funniest men ever to hold public office.)

Byrne gives credit to Jack Kennedy for having written two books as a young man, Why England Slept and Profiles in Courage. Since it's now pretty well established that Kennedy cribbed both books, that's citing a pretty dubious accomplishment.

David Looman
Bernal Heights


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