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A friend forwarded this to me and I thought you'd be interested
in seeing it. I plan on staying FAR away from the Cue Cat!
Radio Shack and the Dallas Morning News and Channel 8 WFAA are trying
to shove it down our throats, so beware! It's just another way
for them to get your personal information!
Surely you've heard of the CueCat by now: It's a free, pen-style bar-
code scanner being given away by a company called Digital Convergence
in what they're calling the largest, fastest hardware rollout in
computer history: They plan to distribute 50 million of the devices
by the end of next year.
Here in the US, it's being promoted in newspapers, magazines, and on
television; it's also being handed out in the national chain of Radio
Shack stores. You almost can't avoid it.
The primary benefit of the CueCat is that you can scan in specially-
formatted bar-code information printed in ads; the bar-code is
usually just a URL. The CueCat software turns the scanned code into a
standard URL and feeds it to your browser, which then takes you to
It seems a little silly to me to have to install extra hardware and
software (with all the concomitant potential for instability therein)
primarily to avoid typing a URL: CueCat seems a product aimed at raw
newbies who are terrified of typing "http:" or who don't know that
most browsers don't even need the "http://www." (For example, in most
browsers, langa.com and http://www.iwannabefamous.com get you to the same
And there are major privacy concerns: To use a CueCat, you have to
register it, which involves providing personal information (name,
email, zip code, gender, age...) to Digital Convergence. Plus, each
CueCat has a unique serial number software-embedded inside it. This
gives the company everything it needs to track you: Because it knows
who you are and which CueCat you own, the company can, if it chooses,
track every ad you ever scan. By using a CueCat to go to a web site
instead of simply typing the URL, Digital Convergence now has a way
to "look over your shoulder" as you shop.
Worse, their database was set up poorly, and that treasure-trove of
online personal information almost immediately came under attack by
bad hackers---"crackers"--- who successfully stole at least some of
the personal information there. This is not confidence-inspiring.