Saturday, February 24, 2007

Security scanner can see through clothes

PHOENIX - Sky Harbor International Airport became the country's first to begin testing a controversial new federal screening system that takes X-rays of passenger's bodies in an effort to find concealed explosives and other weapons.
The Phoenix airport started testing the new technology on Friday. It can see through people's clothes and show the body's contours with blush-inducing clarity.

Critics have said the high-resolution images created by the "backscatter" technology are too invasive. But the Transportation Security Administration adjusted the equipment to make the image look something like a line drawing, while still detecting concealed weapons.

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During testing, the machine will be used only as a backup screening measure. Passengers who fail the standard screening with a metal detector will be able to choose between the new device or a pat-down search.

"It's 100 percent voluntary, so if the passenger doesn't feel comfortable with it, the passenger doesn't have to go through it,"
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.

Passengers selected for screening by the device are asked to stand in front of the closet-size X-ray unit with the palms of their hands facing out. Then they must turn around for a second screening from behind. The procedure takes about a minute.

"It seems faster. I'm not uncomfortable with it," said Kelsi Dunbar, 25, of Seattle, who chose the machine. "I trust TSA, and I trust that they are definitely trying to make things go quickly and smoothly in the airport. Hosting Banner

But one expert said the machine's altered image is ineffective, while the clear picture is an invasion of privacy.

"The more obscure they make the image, the more obscure the contraband, weapons and explosives," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project at the ACLU in Washington, D.C. "The graphic image is a strip-search. You shouldn't have to be strip-searched to get on an airplane. Millions of Americans would regard them as pornographic."

The machine will be tested for up to 90 days at a single checkpoint at Sky Harbor International Airport's largest terminal, which hosts US Airways and Southwest Airlines, the two busiest airlines in Phoenix.

The technology could be left in place after the trial period, and the TSA hopes to roll out similar machines at the Los Angeles airport and New York's Kennedy Airport by the end of the year.

The security officer who works with the passenger going through the screening will never see the images the machine produces. The pictures will be viewed by another officer about 50 feet away who will not see the passenger, the TSA said.

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The machine cannot store the images or transmit them and "once we're done screening the passenger, the image is gone forever," Melendez said.

He said the device at Sky Harbor costs about $100,000 but is on loan from the manufacturer, American Science and Engineering Inc. of Boston.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Yahoo to unveil mobile marketing platform

SUNNYVALE, Calif. - Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) will sell branded advertising aimed at mobile phone customers outside the United States as part of the Internet powerhouse's efforts to build other revenue sources beyond the Web.

The new mobile marketing platform to be unveiled Monday will deliver image-based ads to mobile phones in Mexico, Canada and 16 other countries in Europe, Asia and parts of South America.

The Sunnyvale-based company launched a similar advertising push in the United States in November.

Yahoo said its expanded platform for image-based ads already has lined up commitments from several major advertisers, including Intel Corp., PepsiCo Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co.

Like its other Internet rivals, Yahoo is trying to develop more ways for advertisers to reach the billions of cell phones and mobile computing devices that have become staples of modern living.

Toward that end, Yahoo also is rolling out a series of upgrades to recently introduced applications designed to make it easier to find vital information on mobile devices without clicking through as many links as conventional searches on the Web require. The new features make it easier for users to share the results with others.

Yahoo said more than 100 mobile phones now support its so-called "oneSearch" application, up from about 70 different types a little over a month ago.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Samsung unveils iPhone-like cell phone

SEOUL, South Korea - Samsung Electronics Co. has unveiled a new mobile phone that features some of the sleek design and functions of Apple Inc.'s much-hyped iPhone.
Samsung's Ultra Smart F700 will be exhibited at next week's 3GSM World Congress, a telecommunications exhibition in Barcelona, Samsung spokeswoman Sonia Kim said Friday.

Mobile phone makers have been scrambling to match the iPhone, unveiled last month by Apple CEO
Steve Jobs. The device, which will be available starting in June, marks the iPod and
Macintosh computer maker's entry into the mobile phone business.

The ultra-thin iPhone is controlled by touching the screen a large touch screen, plays music, surfs the Internet, and runs a version of the Mac
OS X operating system, among other functions.

Samsung said the Ultra Smart F700 also has a full touch screen as well as a traditional QWERTY key pad that slides out "for users who are not yet familiar with a touch-screen-only user interface."

The phone can also access the Internet, play music, take pictures, show videos, handle e-mail and share photos, said Samsung, the world's third-largest manufacturer of mobile phone handsets.

Its third-generation (3G) technology is considerably faster than the iPhone's EDGE system, and its 5-megapixel camera outclasses the iPhone's 2-megapixel camera.

"The Ultra Smart F700 is a good example of how (the) mobile phone will evolve in the future," Choi Gee-sung, president of Samsung's Telecommunications Network Business, said in a statement Thursday.

Apple's iPhone will cost $599 for the high-end model.

Kim, the Samsung spokeswoman, said marketing plans for the Ultra Smart F700 remain unclear because the company wants to see what kind of reaction it receives at the Barcelona show.

Last month, Samsung rival LG Electronics Co. announced its own touch-screen mobile phone, the KE850 Prada.

The LG phone, produced in partnership with the Italian fashion brand, is to go on sale in late February for $780 at mobile phone dealers and Prada stores in Britain, France, Germany and Italy. It is to be launched in Asia in March.