Posts Tagged ‘Europe

11
Aug
10

Google Street View throws light on web privacy

NEWS
Google Street View throws light on web privacy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Google’s online map feature has become a flash point for people worried about the erosion of privacy in the Internet Age.

Street View images at Google Maps sparked controversy from the outset of the project three years ago.

Google dispatched cars and tricycles rigged with cameras and satellite positioning gear to take pictures of what one might see on streets around the world and synched the images to its free online mapping service.

Some people complained that faces could be recognised in pictures, raising the potential that people caught in compromising situations, perhaps stepping out of an adult video store, would have such moments memorialised online.

Others expressed fears that numbers from licence plates could be used to figure out who parks or lives on certain streets.

People were soon accusing Street View vehicles of straying onto private roads or yards to snap pictures in violation of the California-based internet giant’s policies.

Google adapted to ameliorate concerns. It began blurring faces and car licence plate numbers in images.

This year the Street View controversy rocketed to a new level with the revelation by Google that electronics in its picture-taking vehicles captured data from wireless internet systems not secured by passwords.

Google basically had access to unencrypted email, video downloads, web browsing or other digital information passing through wireless routers in homes or businesses as its Street View vans went by, said John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

Google has apologised repeatedly for what it called an accidental data grab, but authorities in more than a dozen countries are investigating whether the company broke privacy laws.

South Korean police on Tuesday searched the offices of Google Korea as part of its probe, an officer said.

Police seized computer hard discs and other material. After analysing the material they plan to summon the company’s staff for questioning.

Efforts by governments to get the Street View data threaten to multiply damage to people’s privacy even if Google is true to its word that it has done nothing with the information.

‘Simply handing over the data to governments can be a very bad idea,’ said Electronic Frontier Foundation international rights director Katitza Rodriguez.

‘In some cases, the remedy can be worse than the disease.’

Countries could use the pretext of investigating Street View to mine Google data in ways that ‘might create risky situations for human rights activists, dissidents, or bloggers fighting for their rights,’ she added.

Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle theorised that Google might have intended to map locations of open wireless ‘hot spots’ as a potential service to users.

‘Telling people where they can get on the internet for free while they are out and about sounds to me like a typical Google thing to do,’ Enderle said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me.’

Identity thieves might view a roster of open wireless zones the way burglars might look at a list of homes left unlocked, according to the analyst.

Google said it would allow Germans to block out their homes on Street View ahead of its launch in the country this year but privacy watchdogs were still not happy.

‘Google Street View is a great tool, for instance, for tourists to scope out the location that he or she wants to visit,’ Rodriguez said.

‘However, Google’s technology is too invasive, and goes too far. We expect some degree of anonymity while we are walking on the streets.’
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08
Aug
10

First 3D Porn movie being shot in Hong Kong

NEWS
First 3D Porn movie being shot in Hong Kong

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Entertainment••• A group of Hong Kong filmmakers have started shooting what they claim will be the world’s first 3D pornographic film, a report said on Sunday.

The $3.2 million 3-D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, set for release in May, has already generated interest in a host of Asian film markets, as well as Europe and the U.S., the Sunday Morning Post reported.
Loosely based on a piece of classical Chinese erotic literature, The Carnal Prayer Mat, the movie will star Japanese adult actresses Yukiko Suo and Saori Hara, the Post said.

The film chronicles the story of a young man who, after being introduced to the erotic world of a duke, realises his ex-wife is the love of his life and features ‘orgies, swinging and some very graphic sex scenes’, the paper said.
Producer Stephen Shiu acknowledged that censors would likely block the movie’s screening in mainland China, a key market for Hong Kong filmmakers.

‘(But) we are almost closing deals with some markets including Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and some pay TV channels in Hong Kong,’ Shiu told the paper.

Italian director Tinto Brass has announced he would produce a 3D remake of his 1979 erotic film Caligula, while Hustler plans to release a pornographic spoof of 3D science fiction film Avatar, the top-grossing movie of all time which has earned about $2.7 billion worldwide since its release.
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04
Aug
10

News Corp. Posts $875 Million Profit as Ad Sales Rise

NEWS
News Corp. Posts $875 Million Profit as Ad Sales Rise

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

••• Media and entertainment giant News Corp. reported, Wednesday, that it has swung to profit in the fiscal fourth quarter on the back of strong performance from its television networks division which posted impressive ad sales.

News Corp. said its net profit in June quarter was $875 million or $0.33 per share as against loss of $203 million or $0.08 per share in the year ago period.

The company said its revenue moved up 5.7 percent to $8.11 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected News Corp. to report profit of $0.20 per share on revenue on $7.87 billion.

However, operating profit, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, slipped 1.7 percent year-on-year in June quarter to $932 million from $948 million.

The media conglomerate said its earnings were driven by strong performance put up by its television networks division, which accounted for more than half of its operating income.

Profits at domestic channels surged by 30 percent while international channels improved 40 percent. Overall, operating profit at cable television networks division, which include channels such as Fox News Channel and FX, surged 31 percent to $563 million on the back of advertising revenue which jumped 11 percent. The division also saw double-digit growth in revenue from fees paid by cable, satellite and fiber video providers.

Operating profit at News Corp.’s broadcast television division also surged 13 percent to $113 million on improved ad sales offsetting higher programming expenses at the company’s national broadcast network – Fox Broadcasting.

The group’s filmed entertainment division also did well but could not beat third quarter performance. Operating income in June quarter dropped 32 percent year-on-year to $137 million. In March quarter, profit stood at $497 million. At the time of announcing third quarter earnings, News Corp. had warned that one should not expect stellar performance from this division in the fourth quarter, largely due to an expected year-over-year decline in the film business due to the timing of releases.

The newspapers and information services division, which include the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and Dow Jones, also reported 20 percent surge in profit to $115 million on higher ad revenue, though it was below Street estimates.

The company’s digital media division, which include social networking site MySpace, however, disappointed, reporting an operating loss of $174 million in the June quarter on lower search and advertising revenue. News Corp. said MySpace is set for a “major overhaul.”

News Corp.’s satellite TV division also disappointed, reporting a 37 percent slide in operating income to $97 million on the back of continued weakness at Sky Italia.

To reduce dependence on the economically sensitive advertisement-based revenue, News Corp. said it is beefing up its portfolio of subscription-based assets. In June, it said it has made a bid for the 61 percent stake of pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSkyB) it doesn’t already own.

“The opportunity for us to expand the scale of our franchises is significant, including through taking advantage of the continual technological advances that will broaden the reach of our core content and distribution businesses,” News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.

The company’s full-year results were more impressive.

News Corp. said its net profit in fiscal year 2010 was $2.5 billion, helped primarily by blockbuster movie “Avatar.” DVD sales of other films like “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” also bumped up its profits. In the prior year, News Corp. incurred a net loss of $3.4 billion, which included a one-time pre-tax impairment and other charges of $9.2 billion.

“These results underscore just how well positioned we are – fiscally, operationally and strategically – for further growth across all of our markets,” Murdoch said.

Shares of News Corp., which owns Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, MySpace and 20th Century Fox among other things, closed up 1.61 percent at $13.85. Following the financial results announcement, the company’s shares were up 3.25 percent in the after-market hours.
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04
Aug
10

MasterCard 2Q profit jumps 31 percent, tops view

NEWS
MasterCard 2Q profit jumps 31 percent, tops view

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

••• Anaemic consumer spending in the U.S. was offset by strong international growth to help boost MasterCard Inc’s second-quarter profit by 31 percent.

The gain topped Wall Street profit expectations, but fell short of the 38 percent leap in operating income posted by the company’s larger rival, Visa Inc., last week.

MasterCard shares slipped $1.76, to $200.70 in midday trading as the broader market sputtered.

MasterCard’s gains showed the Purchase, NY-based payment processor’s reliance on overseas use of its cards and networks. Worldwide purchasing volume rose eight per cent, while U.S. purchasing volume eked out a gain of less than 1 percent.

Worldwide, credit card use rose 10 percent, while debit card use leaped 29 percent.

Chief Financial Officer Martina Hund-Mejean said in an interview that card use was particularly strong in Latin America and Asia Pacific, which both saw double-digit growth rates.

‘Even in Europe,’ she said, alluding to the economic turmoil on the Continent in recent months. ‘We do not see any significant impact on our numbers in terms of the Europeans not spending.’

U.S. credit card use edged down 1.5 percent, continuing a two-year decline, but showing the smallest drop since the third quarter of 2008.

Debit card use edged up less than 1 percent. That reflects more frequent use of debit cards, but was held down by MasterCard’s loss of several debit card deals with banks, most notably the former Washington Mutual, which was bought by JPMorgan Chase in 2008. Hund-Mejean said US debit growth was closer to 20 percent if the banks winding down their MasterCard programs are stripped out.

U.S. spending, particularly with credit cards, picked up in April but was less robust later in the quarter, Hund-Mejean said. ‘People still feel a little careful and cautious, and I think that’s what we saw in May and June,’ she said.

Analysts noted the growth compared with a weak quarter last year. Thomas McCrohan from Janney Capital Marketssaid it is hard to read into the results to say whether they indicate any real improvement in the economy. But there was ‘nothing alarming’ in the results.

‘There’s nothing that would support a double dip’ of the recession, McCrohan said.

The number of transactions MasterCard handled was basically flat at 5.6 billion. Cross-border volume jumped 15.2 percent.

Net income rose to $458 million, or $3.49 per share, compared with $349 million, or $2.67 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.28 billion in the 2009 second quarter. MasterCard said the revenue increase reflected the higher cross-border volumes, higher gross dollar volume of the transactions it processed and the impact of price increases of 4 percent.

Wall Street expected earnings of $3.33 per share on revenue of $1.38 billion.

Total operating expences dropped 10 percent to $648 million. The decrease was led by a drop in severance and compensation costs as a result of layoffs in 2009.

President and CEO Ajay Banga said it is too early to tell what results MasterCard will feel from the limits on debit card fees included in the financial overhaul bill signed by President Barack Obama last month.

‘I know that everybody is eager to fully understand the impact on our business, but the truth is we just have to wait for the (Federal Reserve) to develop the regulations, and for our customers to react, before we will know the full implications both for the industry and for our company,’ he said during a conference call.

Banga noted there are a number of options for implementing the new rules, and quipped that MasterCard benefits in this case from having a smaller market share of U.S. debit than Visa.

Regardless of the new regulations, Banga said he doesn’t see the shift from cash and checks to electronic payments slowing down. He spoke enthusiastically about a number of pilot projects and overseas ventures MasterCard has to expand its network beyond card payments. Deals the company struck on mobile payments in Latin America, money transfer services in China and contactless payments in the U.S. position MasterCard for continued growth as the payments market evolves, he said.

David Parker, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, said it will be a few years before ‘electronic wallets’ are a reality, and there are some challenges in terms of customer and merchant adoption, but it is clear the market is moving in that direction.

MasterCard’s investments in this area could help it overcome its disadvantage in debit cards.

‘I think there is an opportunity there with mobile commerce,’ he said.
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22
Jul
10

Ian Tomlinson death: police officer will not face criminal charges

NEWS
Ian Tomlinson death: police officer will not face criminal charges

Thursday, July 22, 2010

••• A British police officer who struck a man and pushed him to the ground during the G20 protests in London last year will not face charges over his death, state prosecutors announced on Thursday.

Ian Tomlinson, 47, was filmed being hit with a baton by the officer, identified only as PC ‘A’, and being pushed over as he walked through demonstrations in the City of London financial district on April 1, minutes before collapsing.

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was a ‘sharp disagreement between the medical experts’ about the cause of the newspaper seller’s death.

‘As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Tomlinson’s death was caused by PC ‘A’ pushing him to the ground,’ it said.
‘That being the case, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction for unlawful act manslaughter.

‘It also follows that there is also no realistic prospect of a conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm or misconduct in public office.’

Tomlinson’s family were outraged at the decision and vowed to seek a review.
‘There is either a lack of will or there is incompetence,’ their lawyer Jules Carey said on the ‘unbelievable’ lack of charges.

‘Their dad died of either a heart attack or internal bleeding, whichever evidence you prefer, but no one has been prosecuted and that is a disgrace.

‘We will be looking at whether the decision can be reviewed.’
Tomlinson had not taken part in the protest and was apparently on his way home through the protest zone.

‘It’s just outrageous. We feel like it wasn’t a full investigation from the beginning,’ Tomlinson’s son Paul King said.

‘It’s been a big cover-up. Why isn’t there an assault charge, nothing?’

Thousands of anti-capitalist protesters gathered in the City of London ahead of the Group of 20 summit in east London which was attended by leaders of the world’s wealthiest economies, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
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• Source(s): Guardian News and Media Ltd. & Independent Television News
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12
Jul
10

Facebook Installs Panic Button For Children

NEWS
Facebook Installs Panic Button For Children

Monday, July 12, 2010

••• Young Facebook users will be able to report suspicious online behavior with the launch of a new ‘panic button’ targeting sex offenders.

Children can use the button to report abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Facebook.

The application will automatically appear on the homepage of every user aged between 13 and 18.

The launch follows months of negotiation between Facebook and CEOP, the government law enforcement agency tasked with tracking down online sex offenders.

CEOP called for the panic button to be installed in November but Facebook has resisted the idea.

Bebo became the first network to add the button, followed by MySpace while Facebook maintained that its own reporting systems were adequate.

However pressure mounted on Facebook following the rape and murder of Ashleigh Hall, 17.

Ashleigh was killed by a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, posing as a teenage boy, whom she met on Facebook.

Forty-four police chiefs in England, Wales and Scotland, signed a letter backing CEOP’s call for a panic button on every Facebook page.

Users will be able to bookmark the Click CEOP service or add it as an application to find information about online safety.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the CEOP Centre said: ‘Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the Click CEOP button is well documented – today however is a good day for child protection.

‘We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people online.’

Facebook’s Joanna Shields added: ‘There is no single silver bullet to making the internet safer but by joining forces with CEOP we have developed a comprehensive solution which marries our expertise in technology with CEOP’s expertise in online safety.’

James Brokenshire, U.K. Minister for Crime Prevention said: ‘It’s a sad fact that we are now seeing more cases where sex offenders are using social networking sites to conceal their identities in order to contact children.’
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11
Jul
10

Spain win World Cup after Andres Iniesta strikes

NEWS
Spain win World Cup after Andres Iniesta strikes

Sunday, July 11, 2010

••• Spain has won the World Cup in what was more of a scrap than a football match, poorly controlled by English referee Howard Webb. He lost control when he failed to give a yellow card to Van Percy after just 90 seconds of play.

The single goal finally came from Andrés Iniesta in the 25th minute of extra time. The Barça player got himself a yellow card for showing his vest in celebration, where he had written a tribute to his friend and Espanyol player, Dani Jarque , who died last year at the age of just 26. The Dutch would complain there was an offside play ahead of the goal, but there is no doubt that the best side won in the end.

But the 2010 World Cup Final will be remembered for the way the Dutch came out kicking, and the 14 yellow cards presented as a result. Only one red card for the Dutch player, John Heitunga, where many commentators think it should have been three for the team; De Jong certainly should have had a direct red card for kicking Xavi Alonso directly in the chest, and Van Bommel committed far more than one yellow card foul according to most eyes. It seems the Dutch tactic was to use aggression to try to stop Spain from playing, as they had did successfully against Brazil, but this time the Spanish side finally won by at least trying to play the attractive football they are famous for, and justice was done.
On the pitch, Cesc Fábregas came on for an exhausted Xavi Alonso in an attempt to try and get the first goal, but missed a clear opportunity in a one to one with the Dutch goalkeeper. But it was a Cesc pass which led to the Iniesta goal.

Vicente del Bosque also gave Fernando Torres play in the last five minutes of the game, replacing an exhausted David Villa, but El Niño was obviously not fit, and his knee failed again before the end. He collapsed in tears. After the victory, Del Bosque, said it was not only winning, ‘This has very important principles and values for Spain’, he said.
Queen Sofia confessed to being emotional after the victory, as did the Prince and Princess of Asturias, ‘We are very happy. We want to go down to the dressing room to celebrate with them’, they said.

So, Spain has won the World Cup for the first time, and the parties which broke out across the country at the result are set to continue until dawn.

In Madrid plans are well advanced to welcome the 23 players in the squad who will travel through the city in an open top bus and visit the Palace tomorrow. The Plaza Cibeles has been considered too small, so 31,000 square metres has been reserved next to the Manzanares River. Expect total gridlock in Madrid from 7 pm Monday.
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