The RISKS Digest
Volume 7 Issue 65

Saturday, 15th October 1988

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Please try the URL privacy information feature enabled by clicking the flashlight icon above. This will reveal two icons after each link the body of the digest. The shield takes you to a breakdown of Terms of Service for the site - however only a small number of sites are covered at the moment. The flashlight take you to an analysis of the various trackers etc. that the linked site delivers. Please let the website maintainer know if you find this useful or not. As a RISKS reader, you will probably not be surprised by what is revealed…


Vendor introduces “safe” Ada subset
Jonathan Jacky
Re: ethics of conflict simulation
Sean Malloy
Re: Assault on Privacy
Ronni Rosenberg
Software warranties and Trade Practices in Australia
B L Coombs annoted by “cbp” via Lee Naish
George Sukenick
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Vendor introduces “safe” Ada subset <Jonathan Jacky, University of Washington>
Fri, 14 Oct 88 09:04:38 PDT



Southampton, England - (A subset of Ada called Spark) is reported to overcome the drawbacks of (Ada) in applications where software integrity is critical. … Spark was developed at the University of Southampton with the sponsorhip of the British Ministry of Defence. It is now being marketed by Program Validation Ltd.

(A representative of Program Validation) said that the use of Ada for safety critical programming poses some serious problems. There is no formal definition of the language and the precise meaning of some its constructions is unclear. According to Program Validation, the resulting uncertainties make formal verification of Ada programs impossible and cast doubts on the integrity of the compiled code. A further complication is that the richness of Ada allows programs to be constructed that are apparently simple, but hide great underlying complexity.

… To achieve Ada integrity, Spark has introduced several restrictions. It does not allow the use of tasks, exceptions or generic units. Access types are also omitted, as these are considered unacceptable in real-time safety critical applications. … Certain features — such as “go to” statements and “declare” statements — are totally barred.

Re: ethics of conflict simulation

Sean Malloy <>
Thu, 13 Oct 88 13:40:12 PDT
>From RISKS-FORUM 7.74: (Scott Wilde)    The problem is not some nebulous
>fear of the Pentagon “poisoning” the industry as a whole, but rather
>that they would interfere _with the particular game under consideration_.

In fact, one of the games designed by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) before they were bought out by TSR was _ordered_ by the Army. _Firefight_ was intended as a simulation for warfare in Europe, to teach tactics to infantry and armor commanders. Within a number of simplifying abstractions, it modeled the weapons systems available to a unit commander in Germany.

SPI later made this game available as part of their regular line. It soon became apparent that the game was not only useful for teaching tactics, it was also a device to build confidence and improve morale — the way the rules and weapons systems data were set up, it was almost impossible for a Soviet player to pull anything better than a draw out of the game. The game mechanics were biased so that an American player could win by using the ‘right’ tactics (‘right’ in the Army sense — the approved Army tactics for a given situation), rather than encouraging the players to come up with their own tactics.

From the Army's point of view, it was a very good simulation. From the opinions expressed about it in the gaming community, it flopped miserably as a game.

Sean Malloy, Navy Personnel Research & Development Cntr, San Diego CA 92152-6800

Re: Assault on Privacy

Ronni Rosenberg <ronni@VX.LCS.MIT.EDU>
Thu, 13 Oct 88 13:36:10 edt

Thanks to Anthony Atkielski for providing information on privacy legislation in France. I hope that France's legislation closes some of the loopholes in U.S. privacy legislation. But it is worth pointing out that laws that may sound good on the books often do not translate into tough action.

For instance, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (1971) specifies expiration periods, for bankruptcy data (14 years) and other adverse data (7 years), which is not well defined. Where legislation contains vague definitions, applying it may be left to the judgement of the agency being regulated.

The FCRA also requires credit agencies to provide you with the data in their file about you, on request, and to allow you to correct it. Sounds good. But you can get such info. for free only after you have been denied credit on the basis of it. If you want to get the info. before you have a problem, it's not too expensive, but you'll have quite a time trying to find all the private organizations that maintain files about you. If you make a correction, there is no guarantee that it will be propogated to other files based on this one and to other organizations that obtained the false data previously. And if you lost something, such as a mortgage, because of false data, tough luck.

The Privacy Act (1974) makes it easier for people to know about their files (in government agencies and the private organizations with which they do business). But publication of the existence of records is done in the Federal Register, which is not exactly handy.

Agencies are restricted from releasing personal data to another agency without written permission of the person who provided the data, except for “routine” purposes. In 1979, the Office of Personnel Management released lots of its data to other agencies. What was the “routine” purpose? “To protect the legitimate interests of government.” Similar definitions can be used to "justify" the collection of any sort of info.

Atkielski thinks that individuals in France can insist that a credit bureau erase its file about themselves. But if society is structured so that many of the normal transactions of life depend on credit ratings, how real a “choice” do you have about participating?

I wish much more of the burden were on the organizations that maintain (and, in many cases, profit from) data banks. I'd like to see organizations held responsible for notifying individuals directly about the existence of files about themselves; requesting permission from individuals every time info. is released; guaranteeing that corrections will be made and propogated quickly; assuming liability for losses based on false data; and so on.

Software warranties and Trade Practices in Australia

Lee Naish <>
Wed, 12 Oct 88 13:43:36 EST
[This was picked off the net in Australia, from “cbp”, including and commenting on a letter from B L COOMBS. Lee]

Software Warranties - The Truth

[The Trade Practices Commission recently sent the following letter to 2000 Australian computer companies.

Permission has been obtained from Ian Searle of the TPC to reproduce this letter here <<i.e.,ACSnet, but I don't think they would mind further distribution<>.]

Trade Practices Commission

18 March 1988

The Commission is concerned that many computer software packages sold in Australia contain statements which place their suppliers at risk of contravening the Trade Practices Act. Such contravention, if proven in court, can lead to penalties of up to $20,000 for an individual or $100,000 for a corporation.

2. Legal action is not contemplated by the Commission at this time, but the Commission is concerned that suppliers become aware of their obligations under the Act and comply with it for the benefit of their customers as well as avoiding risk of legal action against them by either the Commission, a customer or a competitor.

3. The Trade Practices Act implies into consumer transactions broad warranties, conditions, rights and remedies with cannot be restricted, modified or excluded. Any attempt to do so is void and places suppliers at risk of contravening the Act.

4. A sample of software documentation examined by the Commission indicates that statements which attempt to limit, or exclude altogether, all warranties whether expressed or implied are quite common. Other statements considered likely to mislead consumers as to their legal rights and remedies were also detected. A number of these statements and the sections of the Act they are likely to contravene are set out in Attachment A.

5. With the large number of suppliers in the industry the Commission is of course not aware of the documentation of each supplier and is thus unable to comment specifically on individual documentation at this stage and some may well already comply with the Act. You are however urged to consider the documentation of software supplied by you and the representations made by your employees (and, if appropriate, by distributors and retailers supplying your software) to ensure that they do comply with the Act. This consideration should encompass a review of representations made regarding the capabilities of the software. When modification to documentation is required you should not neglect current stocks held by you (and your distributors and retailers, if appropriate) as well as having documentation for future stocks modified.

6. When reviewing the documentation where warranties and customers' rights are discussed, the Commission considers it prudent that a statement such as the following be included to ensure the documentation proceeds on an accurate positive footing and in a manner not likely to mislead or deceive -

“The benefits conferred by this warranty are in addition to all other rights and remedies you have in respect of the product under the Trade Practices Act and similar State and Territory laws”.

7. The Commission will continue to monitor the documentation associated with computer software and, if the incidence of statements which contravene the Act continues, will consider what further action it should take.

8. If you have any queries regarding software documentation or think the Commission may be able to assist you generally, please contact John Nicholl of this office (telephone 062-642918).

Yours faithfully

(signed) B L COOMBS

Assistant Commissioner, Fair Trading and Consumer, Protection Branch


Sample Statements from Software Packages

(i) General Exclusion

“Except as hereafter provided the program(s) is(are) provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of the program(s) is with you. Should the program(s) prove defective, you (and not the licensor or its authorized dealers) assume the entire cost of all necessary servicing, repair or correction.”


The conditions and warranties implied and the rights and remedies created by the Trade Practices Act cannot be restricted, modified or excluded. Any attempt to do so is void. Statements of this type are therefore void and put suppliers at risk of contravening section 53(g) of the Act which prohibits false or misleading representations concerning the existence, exclusion or effect of any condition, warranty, guarantee, right or remedy. Suppliers would also be at risk under section 52 of the Act which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct.

(ii) No Refunds If Package Opened

“No refunds will be given for products that have an opened disk package”.


Consumers have a non-excludable right under the Trade Practices Act to rescind the contract, return the goods and obtain a refund where there has been a breach of a condition implied by the Act (which include conditions of merchantable quality and fitness for purpose). Statements such as this are void and place suppliers at risk of contravening sections 52 and 53(g) of the Act.

(iii) Express Warranties

“No oral or written information or advice given by the company, its dealers, distributors, agents, or employees shall create a warranty or in any way increase the scope of this warranty and you may not rely on any such information or advice”.


Consumers have a right under the Trade Practices Act to recover loss or damage arising from the failure of the manufacturer or importer to comply with an “express warranty” (briefly, an assertion or representation about the goods likely to induce a person to acquire them). There may be cases where assertions or statements by the company's dealers, distributors, agents or employees may constitute an “express warranty” made with apparent authority. It is doubtful whether a denial of authority in a document likely to come to a customer's notice, if at all, after the transaction is concluded would be sufficient to rebut the presumption (inferred under the Act) that the “express warranty” was in such cases given by, or for, the company. Statements such as this may place suppliers at risk of contravening sections 52 and 53(g) of the Act.

(iv) Time Limits

“All implied warranties on the media and manual, including implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, are limited in duration to ninety (90) days from the date of the original retail purchase of this product”.


The duration of the non-excludable conditions and warranties implied under the Trade Practices Act cannot be limited. Statements which attempt to do so are void and place suppliers at risk of contravening sections 52 and 53(g) of the Act. Suppliers can, of course, limit the duration of their express warranty. However, in doing so suppliers should ensure that consumers will not be likely to be misled concerning their non-excludable rights and remedies under the Trade Practices Act.

(v) Forcing Acceptance Of Unseen Terms

“Opening the sealed packet signifies your acceptance of the terms of the enclosed agreement”.


Statements of this type may mislead consumers as to their rights to dispute terms of agreements to which they had no prior access (and which, therefore, are not binding), and/or terms which may in fact be misleading under the Trade Practices Act. Such statements place suppliers at risk of contravening sections 52 and 53(g) of the Act.

(vi) State Law Rights

“This warranty gives you specific legal rights, you may have other rights which vary from state to state. Some states do not allow the exclusion of incidental or consequential damages, or the limitation on how long an implied warranty lasts so some of the above may not apply to you”.


The Trade Practices Act applies throughout Australia to the conduct of companies generally, and also to unincorporated firms (eg Sole traders, partnerships, etc) who trade inter-state or within a Territory. The statutory rights and remedies implied into consumer transactions under the Act cannot be excluded. These include the right to claim consequential damages in some cases and a time limit cannot be placed on these rights. Statements such as the above could therefore mislead consumers as their statutory rights under the Act and place suppliers at risk under sections 52 and 53(g) of the Act.

cbp@foster.avid.oz - {ACS,CS}net - ARPAnet …!{hplabs,mcvax,nttlab,ukc,uunet}!munnari!!cbp - UUCP


George Sukenick <>
Mon, 10 Oct 88 15:35:08 EDT
>  RISKS of EPROMS (Daniel Klein)
>The UV eraseable EPROMS that are found in many smaller computers are also
>subject to failure when their picture is taken.  Yep, you read that correctly.

(Due to camera shy EPROMS? :-))

Electronic flashes draw a lot of current in a short time. The unshielded system might have been crashing due to EMP rather than light interfering with the EPROMs. I guess that the test would then be to see what happens with various combinations of covering the EPROM's windows (they were open in the machine?) and shielding the flash.


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