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    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Reuter site - Exclusive: Google offers credit card to advertisers

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    Exclusive: Google offers credit card to advertisers

    Wed, Jul 20 17:24 PM EDT

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc is introducing a credit card for its advertising customers, offering its clients a credit line to try and drum up business as competition in the online ad market heats up.

    Google is offering the card to select U.S. clients with what it calls a competitive interest rate, an ample credit line and no annual fee. The catch: it can only be used to buy search advertising on the world's No.1 Internet search engine.

    The AdWords Business credit card marks Google's first foray into the world of vendor financing, common among hardware makers such as IBM Corp. It lets marketers spend more on its search ads when the need arises.

    Claire Johnson, vice president of global online sales at Google, said the credit card was designed to help small and medium-sized businesses that advertise on Google but who often don't have the funds to support a heavy ad campaign ahead of a big sales season, such as Valentine's day or Halloween.

    "They are resource-constrained and they are often cash flow-strapped. Many of them are trying to grow a business without the kind of means that, say, your classic company has," she said.

    Consumer-oriented companies like Macy's Inc and Amazon.com Inc have offered credit cards for years to drive purchases, inspire customer loyalty and track spending habits. Some retailers that own their own credit card operations, like Nordstrom Inc can also earn some interest income.

    Google will email invitations offering the credit card to some of its customers on Wednesday. The card will initially be available as a "beta" test, available to select users.

    CREDIT CHECK

    Google makes 96 percent of its revenue from advertising, the vast majority of which comes from the small ads that appear alongside its search results, known as AdWords. But its business faces rising competition from a search alliance between Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc, as well as from social networking service Facebook, which is becoming popular with small and large advertisers alike.

    The AdWords card is a MasterCard that will be issued through the World Financial Capital Bank. The card's 8.99 percent annual percentage rate is the ongoing rate, and not an introductory rate, Google said.

    Google is keeping quiet on many of the other details, including the minimum and maximum credit lines available (Google says it will vary by cardholder) and the number of people to whom the card will be offered.

    Brent Callinicos, Google's Treasurer, said that the credit card will be offered to a "statistically significant" number of people as Google examines the results of how availability of the card affects customer spending behavior.

    "Even though (availability) will skew toward the smaller businesses, obviously we want to cast a wide enough net so we can see what resonates depending on your historical monthly spend," said Callinicos.

    Google will evaluate customers' creditworthiness through a combination of internal efforts and with the help of a financial partner, he said.

    The effort to offer a credit card comes as Google's cash pile continues to grow, reaching $39.1 billion in cash and marketable securities as of June 30. Google does not pay a dividend or participate in any ongoing share repurchase program.

    "Obviously we have a robust balance sheet, so this is a way for us to use that balance sheet to help our customers," Callinicos said.

    But he stressed that the main motive for the card was to provide loans to Google customers in an economic environment in which getting credit can be tough.

    "It isn't a financial engineering project that we came up with and said this would be cool to do. It's a customer need," he said.

    One popular perk missing from Google's credit card is the ability to rack up airline miles with purchases. But Callinicos said he did not think the omission will hurt the card's appeal.

    "I think if you had the choice of an 18 percent credit card and miles versus an 8.99 percent credit card and no miles, it's a pretty easy choice," he said.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Carol Bishopric and Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuter site - T-Mobile to offer unlimited data plans

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    T-Mobile to offer unlimited data plans

    Wed, Jul 20 00:57 AM EDT

    Bangalore (Reuters) - Wireless telecom firm T-Mobile USA said it will begin offering unlimited data service plans, in a move aimed at wooing customers of bigger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc which had stopped offering such plans.

    T-mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, said the new plans will be available from July 24. The unlimited plans will be available with a two-year agreement for new and existing customers.

    Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile provider, said earlier in July it will stop offering unlimited data service plans, meaning higher prices for heavy users of services such as mobile Web surfing.

    AT&T had stopped offering unlimited data services last year.

    T-mobile said the plans offer single-line and multiline options with a range of price points for talk, unlimited text and unlimited data with 2 gigabytes, 5 GB or 10 GB of high-speed data -- with no data overage charges.

    (Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott)

    Reuter site - Law enforcement to begin iPhone iris scans amid privacy concerns

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    Law enforcement to begin iPhone iris scans amid privacy concerns

    Wed, Jul 20 11:02 AM EDT

    By Zach Howard

    CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - Dozens of police departments nationwide are gearing up to use a tech company's already controversial iris- and facial-scanning device that slides over an iPhone and helps identify a person or track criminal suspects.

    The so-called "biometric" technology, which seems to take a page from TV shows like "MI-5" or "CSI," could improve speed and accuracy in some routine police work in the field. However, its use has set off alarms with some who are concerned about possible civil liberties and privacy issues.

    The smartphone-based scanner, named Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, is made by BI2 Technologies in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and can be deployed by officers out on the beat or back at the station.

    An iris scan, which detects unique patterns in a person's eyes, can reduce to seconds the time it takes to identify a suspect in custody. This technique also is significantly more accurate than results from other fingerprinting technology long in use by police, BI2 says.

    When attached to an iPhone, MORIS can photograph a person's face and run the image through software that hunts for a match in a BI2-managed database of U.S. criminal records. Each unit costs about $3,000.

    Some experts fret police may be randomly scanning the population, using potentially intrusive techniques to search for criminals, sex offenders, and illegal aliens, but the manufacturer says that would be a difficult task for officers to carry out.

    Sean Mullin, BI2's CEO, says it is difficult, if not impossible, to covertly photograph someone and obtain a clear, usable image without that person knowing about it, because the MORIS should be used close up.

    "It requires a level of cooperation that makes it very overt -- a person knows that you're taking a picture for this purpose," Mullin said.

    CONCERNS

    But constitutional rights advocates are concerned, in part because the device can accurately scan an individual's face from up to four feet away, potentially without a person's being aware of it.

    Experts also say that before police administer an iris scan, they should have probable cause a crime has been committed.

    "What we don't want is for them to become a general surveillance tool, where the police start using them routinely on the general public, collecting biometric information on innocent people," said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the national ACLU in Washington, D.C.

    Meanwhile, advocates see the MORIS as a way to make tools already in use on police cruiser terminals more mobile for cops on the job.

    "This is (the technology) stepping out of the cruiser and riding on the officer's belt, along with his flashlight, his handcuffs, his sidearm or the other myriad tools," said John Birtwell, spokesman for the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department in southeastern Massachusetts, one of the first departments to use the devices.

    The technology is also employed to maintain security at Plymouth's 1,650 inmate jail, where it is used to prevent the wrong prisoner from being released.

    "There, we have everybody in orange jumpsuits, so everyone looks the same. So, quite literally, the last thing we do before you leave our facility is we compare your iris to our database," said Birtwell.

    One of the technology's earliest uses at BI2, starting in 2005, was to help various agencies identify missing children or at-risk adults, like Alzheimer's patients.

    Since then, it has been used to combat identity fraud, and could potentially be used in traffic stops when a driver is without a license, or when people are stopped for questioning at U.S. borders.

    Facial recognition technology is not without its problems, however. For example, some U.S. individuals mistakenly have had their driver's license revoked as a potential fraud. The problem, it turns out, is that they look like another driver and so the technology mistakenly flags them as having fake identification.

    Roughly 40 law enforcement units nationwide will soon be using the MORIS, including Arizona's Pinal County Sheriff's Office, as well as officers in Hampton City in Virginia and Calhoun County in Alabama.

    (Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)

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