Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

We’re watching: Malls track shopper’s cell phone signals to gather marketing data

In Americas, Big Brother on November 28, 2011 at 3:42 am

By Sean Gallagher

Online retailers have long gathered behavioral metrics about how customers shop, tracking their movements through e-shopping pages and using data to make targeted offers based on user profiles. Retailers in meat-space have had tried to replicate that with frequent shopper offers, store credit cards, and other ways to get shoppers to voluntarily give up data on their behavior, but these efforts have lacked the sort of data capacity provided by anonymous store browsers—at least until now. This holiday season, shopping malls in the US have started collecting data about shoppers by tracking the closest thing to “cookies” human beings carry—their cell phones.

The technology, from Portsmouth, England based Path Intelligence, is called Footpath. It uses monitoring units distributed throughout a mall or retail environment to sense the movement of customers by triangulation, using the strength of their cell phone signals. That data is collected and run through analytics by Path, and provided back to retailers through a secure website.

On March 31, Path CEO Sharon Biggar presented the tech at the ICSC Fusion conference in Los Angeles. She discussed how data collected by Footpath could be used by retailers to boost revenue. Options include tracking response to mailers and other advertising by providing the equivalent of web metrics like unique visitors, “page impressions” (measuring how many people walked past a display or advertisement), and “click-through” (determining how many people who passed an advertisement then visited the store associated with it). “Now we can produce heat maps of the mall and show advertisers where the premium locations are for their adverts,” she said, “and perhaps more importantly we can price the advertising differently at each location.”

In the US, Footpath is being trailed in two malls by Forest City, a mall real estate company that owns malls and shopping centers…

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New questions raised over Dominique-Strauss Kahn case

In Americas, Europe News on November 28, 2011 at 3:41 am

By Paul Harris

New questions have been raised about the events in the New York hotel room where the former International Monetary Fund head and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn was alleged to have sexually assaulted a hotel maid.

The case against Strauss-Kahn was eventually dramatically dropped by a Manhattan court, but the scandal forced him to resign his IMF post and destroyed his chances of becoming the leading leftwing candidate to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency.

An exhaustively researched article in the New York Review of Books, published by veteran American investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein, has cast fresh doubt on exactly what happened in the Sofitel hotel room on 14 May between Strauss-Kahn and his accuser, Guinean-born maid Nafissatou Diallo.

In passages sure to delight Strauss-Kahn supporters and conspiracy theorists, Epstein’s lengthy article studied hotel door key and phone records and traced links to Strauss-Kahn’s potential political rivals, appearing to suggest the possibility that he had been set up.

Such allegations have been raised before, especially by some French media commentators. Some polls taken in France as the scandal dominated world headlines revealed sympathy for Strauss-Kahn. One showed that 57% of French people thought he had been the victim of a smear campaign. Diallo and her lawyers, however…

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First repatriated gold shipment lands in Venezuela

In World News on November 28, 2011 at 3:41 am

By Daniel Wallis

Amid wild celebrations, a first shipment of gold bars arrived home in Venezuela on Friday after President Hugo Chavez ordered almost all the country’s foreign bullion reserves be repatriated from Western banks.

Excited crowds lined the roadside waving big Venezuelan flags and chanting “It’s returned! It’s returned!” as a convoy of soldiers and armored cars carried the ingots from Maiquetia airport to the central bank in Caracas.

Experts had cautioned that the operation, which will eventually transport more than 160 tons of gold bars worth more than $11 billion to the South American country, would be risky, slow and expensive.

Nelson Merentes, the president of the central bank, traveled into the city at the head of the convoy. He did not say how much gold was brought back in Friday’s shipment but said the bullion came from several European countries.

“Our gold is being stored in the vaults,” Merentes, sporting a baseball cap that read “The Central Bank of Venezuela with the People,” told the cheering crowds.

“We cannot give exact dates (for when the rest of the bars will arrive) due to questions of security. When we bring the last shipment, the people will learn about it.”

Drums and sirens sounded out across the square as many in the crowd sang “Forward comandante!” in support of the president. Some waved homemade signs that said: “The gold has returned thanks to Chavez!” and “Long live our sovereignty!”

Chavez announced the repatriation in August as a “sovereign” step that would help protect Venezuela’s foreign reserves from economic turmoil in the United States and Europe. Most of Venezuela’s gold held abroad is…

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Iran explosion at Revolutionary Guards military base

In World News on November 15, 2011 at 7:15 am


Seventeen soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a military base near Iran’s capital Tehran, officials say.

The blast occurred when weapons were being moved inside a Revolutionary Guards depot, a spokesman for the elite unit told state TV.

Windows in nearby buildings were shattered and the blast was heard in central Tehran, 40 km (25 miles) away.

Two hours after the explosion a fire still raged and there were traffic jams on nearby roads, a local reporter said.

The death toll was revised down from an earlier figure released by the Revolutionary Guards of 27.

Local MP Hossein Garousi said “a large part of an ammunition depot exploded,” parliament’s website reported.

Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif did not say what had caused the “accident” in the village of Bidganeh, near the city of Karaj.

“Some of the casualties are reported to be in a critical condition,” he said.

An emergency worker said that 12 people had been taken to hospital.

Karaj resident Kaveer told the BBC’s Newshour programme that the sound was “deafening”.

“We were kind of shocked. I just ran out of the house and looked around,” he said…

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Co-founder of social network site Diaspora, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, dies at 22

In Big Brother, World News on November 15, 2011 at 7:15 am

By The Washington Post

Ilya Zhitomirskiy, a co-founder of the startup social networking site Diaspora that put an emphasis on privacy and user-control, has died, a company spokesman said Monday. He was 22.

The cause of Zhitomirskiy’s death in San Francisco wasn’t immediately known, and neither the company nor the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office would release details.

“Ilya was a great guy. He was a visionary, he was a co-founder of a company that hopes to bring a better social networking experience,” said Peter Schurman, a Diaspora spokesman. “We are all very sad that he is gone. It is a huge loss for all of us, including his family.”

Zhitomirskiy was one of four students who started Diaspora in a computer lab at New York University.

As an anti-Facebook of sorts, the group raised more than $200,000 by collecting contributions through the website Kickstarter.

Last month, it posted a blog on its website asking for more contributions.

The site champions the idea of sharing while keeping control. On its website, the company promotes itself as a “fun and creative community that puts you in control.”

In a video posted on Vimeo in April 2010, when Diaspora first went looking for funds, Zhitomirskiy describes his vision.

“No longer will you be at the whims of those large corporate networks who want to tell you that sharing and privacy are mutually exclusive,” Zhitomirskiy said alongside co-founders…

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European super X-Ray to study Earth’s core

In Europe News, Tech, World News on November 15, 2011 at 7:14 am

By The Inquisitr

Scientists have long speculated exactly what may reside at the center of the Earth’s core and now researchers at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility plan to find out through the use of a super X-ray beam.

The ESRF has been recently configured to use a huge particle accelerator that can create various intense X-Ray beams which provide scientists with an atom-level look at subjects. Called the ID24 the machine will allow scientists to subject metals to extremely high pressures and temperatures that are normally only observed in Earth’s core, they will then observe what happens to those objects to better understand our planets core.

In an official ESRF news release the process is explained:

The ID24 beamline works like an active probe rather than a passive detector, firing an intense beam of X-rays at a sample. It uses a technique called X-ray absorption spectroscopy where the way how atoms of a given chemical element absorb X-rays is studied in fine detail. From this data not only the abundance of an element can be deducted but also its chemical states and which other atoms, or elements, are in their immediate neighborhood, and how distant they are. In short, a complete picture at the atomic scale of the sample studied is obtained.

According to Popular Science ID24 won’t begin experimentation until Spring 2012 but when it finally goes into production researchers hope to receive 1 million measurements per second which in turn will show them precisely what happens when elements such as Iron are heated to 10,000 degrees.

By examining how metals examine at extreme depths scientists also hope to…

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*Military’s ‘persona’ software cost millions, used for ‘classified social media activities’

In Big Brother, Tech on November 7, 2011 at 6:10 am

By Stephen C. Webster

Most people use social media like Facebook and Twitter to share photos of friends and family, chat with friends and strangers about random and amusing diversions, or follow their favorite websites, bands and television shows.

But what does the US military use those same networks for? Well, we can’t tell you: That’s “classified,” a CENTCOM spokesman recently informed Raw Story.

One use that’s confirmed, however, is the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online “personas” managed by the military. Raw Story recently reported that the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called “persona management software.” Such a technology would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals.

These “personas” were to have detailed, fictionalized backgrounds, to make them believable to outside observers, and a sophisticated identity protection service was to back them up, preventing suspicious readers from uncovering the real person behind the account. They even worked out ways to game geolocating services, so these “personas” could be virtually inserted anywhere in the world, providing ostensibly live commentary on real events, even while the operator was not really present.

When Raw Story first reported on the contract for this software, it was unclear what the Air Force wanted with it or even if it had been acquired. The potential for misuse, however, was abundantly clear.

A fake virtual army of people could be used to help create the impression of consensus opinion in online comment threads, or manipulate social…

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Why is U.S. using X-Ray security scanners Europe rejects as unsafe?

In Americas, Europe News, World News on November 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm

By AllGov

In the late 1990s, experts insisted it was highly unlikely the U.S. would rely on new x-ray body scanners at airports and other security checkpoints. But the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, reversed that thinking and today there are hundreds of the machines in use, despite health concerns that have kept the technology out of Europe.
Some health specialists argue that even low-level radiation exposure poses an unacceptable risk to Americans going through airports. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), though, sees things differently, claiming body scanners are safe and effective. Nonetheless, on Tuesday John Pistole, the administrator of TSA, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that his agency will authorize a new, independent study of x-ray and body scanner safety.
The safety of medical x-ray machines is overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Non-medical x-ray machines, such as those used at airports, are less well-regulated. The FDA does have some power to set safety standards for such uses, but when airport scanners began to gain acceptance, the FDA allowed the scanner industry to set its own standards. As for TSA, it approved the scanners without even allowing a period of public comment.
About 250 x-ray scanners are currently in U.S. airports, along with 264 body scanners that use a different technology. TSA officials intend to…