March 3, 2007

“Virtual Strip Searches” [3:45 pm]

A very interesting exploration of a very weird concept — and a call for the kind of care about privacy that is needed in many more contexts that just this one: Invasion of the naked body scanners (Note that the NYTimes article cited in the piece can be found here — New Airport X-Rays Scan Bodies, Not Just Bags)

Are you up for this? Are you ready to get naked for your country?

This is no joke. The government needs to look under your clothes. [...]

The main stumbling block has been privacy. The ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have fought backscatters at every turn, calling them a “virtual strip search.” It’s a curious phrase. The purpose of a strip-search is the search. Stripping is just a means. Virtual inspections achieve the same end by other means. They don’t extend the practice of strip-searching. They abolish it.

[...] Hallowell volunteered for this notoriety. But what happened to her mustn’t happen to others. In the age of body scans, privacy means keeping your name, your face, and your nude image apart. That job doesn’t end at the security gate; it begins there. Will your scan leak? “Images will not be printed, stored or transmitted,” TSA swears on its Web site. Directly above that assurance, the agency has posted four nude pictures—”actual images shown to the Transportation Security Officer during the backscatter process.” And you thought airport screeners had no sense of humor.

Enough with the fairy tales. We lost our innocence when the planes hit the towers. Now we’re losing our modesty. If we’re going to be ogled, at least protect us from being Googled.

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Service, or Sales? [3:40 pm]

The Au Bon Pain near my office appears to offer this, but they are really poaching off the MIT network. It makes the place an MIT student hangout, and they don’t even have to pay for the network access! However, I agree that it’s an idea that’s coming. I personally see no gret benefit to going to place that just will charge me a bit more, especially given that the rates are preposterously high. So, Panera Bread is on my list of places to look for when I travel!! What Starbucks Can Learn From the Movie Palace - New York Times

When Starbucks and McDonald’s decided to exact a toll from their customers as they set up their in-store Wi-Fi networks, they created a confusion of conflicting signals: how welcome can one feel when staring at a meter that is running?

The restaurants’ predecessors, the movie theater owners of almost a century ago, understood that not every amenity, every service, every offering must have a separate price tag attached. The owners and the architects sought to give theatergoers an environment that was pleasing in all aspects. Marcus Loew, the head of a nationwide chain, once said, “We sell tickets to theaters, not movies.”

Panera Bread, which has more than 900 Wi-Fi-equipped sandwich and bakery stores, has set itself apart from its contemporaries by upholding the old-fashioned spirit of those bygone theater owners who never stinted in their efforts to make public space inviting.

The grand movie palaces did not have to show the revenue-enhancing potential of an ornamental gold cornice or plaster pilaster. So, too, at Panera Bread, where its fireplaces do not have to demonstrate a monetary payback to justify their place in the stores.

Neither does Wi-Fi. Neil Yanofsky, Panera’s president, said that no cost accounting had been done on its service, which is free. The rationale relates to ambience: “We want our customers to stay and linger.”

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Win Some, Lose Some [8:54 am]

Probing the rationality and internal consistency of the patent system: Judge rules for Microsoft in Alcatel-Lucent suit - pdf

The ruling made late Thursday comes one week after a jury found that the world’s largest software maker infringed on audio patents held by Alcatel-Lucent and ordered the company to pay $1.52 billion in damages.

U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster in San Diego dismissed all of Alcatel-Lucent’s claims in a summary judgment, meaning that the jury trial set to begin on March 19 will not take place. Alcatel-Lucent said it plans to appeal the ruling.

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