Some listeners of a Toronto radio station last month learned the hard way that keeping private information private is not always easy. The radio station, along with a local pizza chain, announced a contest that would offer the winner the opportunity to have a walk-on role on the hit TV show Friends, if they entered online. The entry form required the entrant’s name, phone number and e-mail address, as well as the same information for a list of his or her friends. The night before the contest was set to launch, the advertised prize fell through. The station quickly had to find a prize to give away equivalent to the T.V. role, and decided to instead offer the winner $25,000. The station made announcements on air about the change throughout the first day of the contest, but also sent out an e-mail to the contestants to notify them of the change. The problem: the e-mail that was sent out included the e-mail address of every single recipient. Instead of simply blocking or using the blind carbon copy feature available in e-mail programs, every single entrant’s address was exposed to everyone else receiving the e-mail. The radio station features a link to its privacy policy on its Web site, and the station’s program manager told Network World Canada that the exposure of e-mail addresses was a grave oversight, and that the person who sent out the e-mail had made a grave error. “We made a mistake, and I apologize for that,” she said. She explained that under normal circumstances, the only way the station would have to notify its listeners of any changes to its contests would be on air, but in this particular situation they had all the entrants’ e-mail addresses. The night before the contest was set to launch, she said the staff went to their Web master to get the message out, but “he was unavailable, and one of our people here tried to be proactive by doing it themselves…unfortunately she acted without asking, and sometimes junior people make mistakes, but they have good intentions.”

Piracy pirate pleads guilty

The co-leader of one of the oldest piracy groups on the Internet, arrested last December in a federal software piracy probe, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy charges in a U.S. federal court. The suspect, identified as John Sankus Jr., 28, of Philadelphia, faces up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine for his part in an international Internet software piracy group known as DrinkOrDie, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia. DrinkOrDie has allegedly been involved in the illegal online distribution of pirated copies of copyrighted software, computer games and movies, according to the U.S. government, which also says Sankus was responsible for the management and supervision of the activities of DrinkOrDie’s members. He allegedly supervised some 60 people who acquired the pirated titles, defeated security features and then distributed the counterfeit titles around the world. He was charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. The DrinkOrDie group was one of several piracy operations targeted as part of several federal investigations into international software piracy during the past two years. More than 100 search warrants were served last December against suspects allegedly involved in piracy syndicates, including Sankus.

Hybrid happenings

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. plans to put on sale in the U.S. a new version of its Palm-OS based personal digital assistant (PDA) cell-phone handset in April. The company unveiled the new phone, which is smaller and lighter than its current model, this week at the Expo Comm Korea exhibition in Seoul. The SPH-M330 is a trimode handset which will work on CDMA2000 1X (Code Division Multiple Access) networks. It also adds support for gpsOne, a hybrid service that combines signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and CDMA base stations to determine a user’s location. That information can then be used with software to display maps of the immediate vicinity of the user or provide location-based directory services. A touch-sensitive, 256-color, 160- by 240-pixel LCD (liquid crystal display) takes up a large part of the face of the device and doubles as both PDA screen and, when used as a telephone, an on-screen keypad. Other features include a 16-polyphonic-tone ringer, speakerphone function, infrared port, voice memo, voice dialling and support for an external camera. Canadian availability of the offering was not available at press time.