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AOL Retools Membership Policy

In the wake of a number of high-profile security breeches, America Online has revamped is membership policy. The changes, which the Internet service provider says directly address the concerns of subscribers, will go into effect July 15. The announcement was made only days after the Federal Trade Commission indicated it would release a report criticizing self-regulation on the part of ISPs and Web site developers, whom the commission accuses of failing to protect users' privacy rights. That report focused heavily on the practice of gathering user information without first telling the user how the information might be used. AOL was criticized widely last year when it announced that user information, including addresses and phone numbers, would be sold to the company's partners. Under the new policy, which new users must read and agree to before opening an account, AOL states that improvements have been made that will help protect children from solicitations for pornography. It is not uncommon for AOL subscribers, including children, to receive e-mail advertising pornography-oriented Web sites, with links pointing directly to those sites. The company also has made it easier (though by no means easy) for users to make choices about whether they want to receive junk e-mail and has said that personal information, such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, will not be given out except when needed to deliver a product purchased by the user. In the past, AOL has lapsed severely in its privacy protection policies. By simply calling AOL customer service, hackers have been able to access accounts belonging to American Civil Liberties Union and rock star Trent Reznor. Last year, the company violated its own policy when private information was released to a member of the Naval Investigative Service (NIS). Maxtor Proposes IPO Hard disk manufacturer Maxtor has filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission proposing an initial public offering of more than $500 million in common stock. The offering, which includes a $100 million sale of stock by Hyundai Electronics America, will be managed by Salomon Smith Barney and co-managed by Hambrecht & Quist, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch & Co. and NationsBanc Montgomery Securities LLC. At least part of the proceeds of the sale will be used to pay off Maxtor's creditors. The remainder will go toward new expenditures and working capital. It is unknown exactly what the stock's initial price will be because the filing did not disclose how many shares would be issued. Milpitas-based Maxtor is a manufacturer of hard disk drive storage products ranging in size from 2.1 gigabytes to 11.5 gigabytes. Notebooks Due For Price Cuts Beginning next week, computer manufacturers Compaq, Toshiba and Acer will start shipping low-priced Pentium II and Pentium MMX notebooks. The moves come on the heels of significant price cuts by chip makers Intel and AMD and ultimately will reduce already bargain prices in an already tight race for notebook market share. The cuts also have been attributed to an escalating price war in the Japanese LCD monitor market, where the costs for some screens have dropped more than 50 percent. Under the new price structure, even the best notebooks will sell for less than $3,000. Compaq, which is poised to introduce a handful of new notebooks in the next week, will offer its Presario 1230, which features a 233-MHz processor from Cyrix, for just under $1600. On the other end of the spectrum, the Presario 1655, which ships with a 266-MHz Pentium II and an oversize screen, will go for about $3,000. Toshiba also will introduce new models, with a 266-MHz Pentium MMX selling for just under $2,200. Acer will offer a similar unit, but with a 233-MHz Pentium II for about $2,000.

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