Search engine giants plan to defend freedom of expression

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Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are publishing a common code of conduct relating to freedom of expression and the protection of privacy online. They’re doing it through a new organization, the Global Network Initiative, in which they’re joined by human rights campaigners and socially responsible investors. The companies dominate the search engine market and also host blogs, Web mail services and forums that are used around the world, putting them in a powerful position to influence the discovery and discussion of information. They have been accused of abusing this position to aid censorship in some countries, by editing search-engine results or providing information about the real identities of critics of government policies.

Microsoft and Yahoo are also working together, with two other partners, to educate Internet surfers about bogus e-mails abusing their brands to convince unwitting recipients that they’ve won a lottery. The scammers then instruct victims to pay fees in order to collect their winnings, a trick known as advance fee fraud. The companies are joined in their antiscam efforts by the African Development Bank, whose brand is also abused, and Western Union, whose wire transfer services are frequently used in the scams. The companies are asking victims to report the crime to their local police authority – and then to send them the police reports so that internal investigators can look for patterns.

Software vendors are meeting later this week to discuss how to improve antivirus product tests, now often regarded as flawed or incomplete. The aim of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization, AMTSO, is to create more consistent guidelines for how security software is evaluated. Although AMTSO’s members compete with one another, they are increasingly realizing that all of them lose when an incomplete or questionable test comparing their products is published. The organization’s members have almost completed documents on the general principles of anti-malware testing, and on dynamic testing how security software is able to block a threat the way it would be encountered during normal computer use. By the end of the year, AMTSO hopes to have an answer to a more basic question: what constitutes a malicious software sample.

SAP saw its profit for the third quarter fall 5 percent year on year, although revenue rose. The company is nervous about the economic crisis, however: it has decided to suspend its predictions about future revenue from software and software-related services.

And those are the top stories from the IDG Global IT News Update, brought to you by the IDG News Service. I’m Peter Sayer in Paris. Join us again later for more news from the world of technology.

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