The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responding to what they say is a huge surge in automated phone calls, or, “robocalls,” by offering a cash reward and prizes to the person, or group of people, who can thwart these calls in the “FTC Robocall Challenge.” According to the FTC, complaints about robocalls skyrocketed to a high of 212,000 this past April, compared to the last high of 65,000 complaints in October of 2010.
California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Sunday that would have required a search warrant in order to obtain location-based personal information obtained through cell towers from mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets, and also GPS systems. The veto came with the message that Brown felt that information based on a user’s location is important to the processes needed by law enforcement.
Internet security firm Symantec (proprietors of, among other things, Norton Anti-Virus) have released the results of research that they have dubbed the “Honey Stick Project”. In Project HoneyStick, researchers “lost” a total of 50 cell phones in various cities around North America, including NYC, Washington D.C., LA, San Francisco, and Ottawa, Canada. The aim was to see what the average citizen would do with a found cell phone: would they try to reunite it with its owner, or would they do something more sinister with it? It turns out that the answer is “both”.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this week called for a complete, total ban on both talking on cell phones (even hands-free), and texting, by drivers. The recommendation, intended to reduce accidents resulting from “distracted driving” followed the Federal agency’s review of accidents resulting from a distracted driver – a problem so serious that the NTSB says that at any moment during any day, approximately 13.5 million drivers are using a cellphone. Last year alone, nearly 3100 fatal accidents were known to be the result of distracted drivers, and the number of accidents attributable to talking or texting drivers is undoubtedly far higher when you include non-fatal accidents, and consider that few drivers will admit that they were texting or on the phone behind the wheel.
Two U.S. malls were all set to use a new technology from U.K.-based FootPath Technology over the Black Friday weekend which would have allowed them to track each shopper’s movement throughout the mall, from store to store, using a unique mobile phone signal from each shopper’s cell phone – without their knowledge or consent! JC Penny and Home Depot are also said to be looking at adopting the FootPath technology.
You know those annoying automated calls that result in a robotic voice saying “Please hold for an important message”? Well, new legislation, if passed, would allow them to your cell phone! A concerted effort by several legislators and large businesses has resulted in Federal bill HR3035, which would allow businesses to initiate automated calls (so called “robo calls”) to cell phones whose owners have ‘given permission’ for the robocalls. “Permission” for robodialing is defined as providing your cell number to the business at any time (even years ago), and in just about any context – just having provided your cell number at any time past or present is enough, you don’t have to say “and please robo dial me.” It’s kind of the “they asked for it” theory of automated dialing phone spam. (Note: This article includes links to make it very easy for you to write to your representative to register your displeasure with this assault on your privacy.)
If you are wanting or needing to give your child a cell phone, but want to be able to apply parental controls to restrict access, or even to make their access fully restricted access with them being able to call just a few numbers that you designate, then here is how to do it with T-Mobile. It is important that you understand these steps, and that you both a) don’t let Tmobile tell you that it can’t be done, and (equally important), b) don’t believe T-Mobile when they tell you that it has been done. You will need to do it – or at least check that T-Mobile has really done it – yourself. Here is how to lock down your child’s cell phone account and access, and apply full parental controls, so that they have no Internet access, and can only call and text to pre-approved numbers.
When you’re going through the security gates at an airport, you’re most likely resigned to the fact that your bag will be searched, regardless of whether there is a reason to do so. But what about your computer, laptop, or cell phone, with the overwhelming amount of personal information it contains – do you expect that to be searched? You should, as Lisa Wayne found out the hard way when her laptop was whisked away and subjected to a half-hour search. It turns out this is fairly routine. Now a law suit has been filed by Wayne and others to out a halt to this practice (some would say ‘abuse’) by the TSA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A study conducted earlier this year has found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 are staring at an electronic screen, and using electronic media and electronic devices, a stunning 8 to 10 hours a day! That’s the equivalent of a full-time job or better, just using iPods, computers, cell phones, televisions, and other electronic devices!
What is the truth about cell phones and radiation? While many will tell you that the jury is out – and others will tell you that there is no (conclusive) evidence – many feel that cellphone use presents a health risk in electromagnetic (ionizing) radiation, particularly for children. The reality is that short term studies have found no correlation between cell phone radiation and health problems such as cancer, however the other reality is that there are no long term studies (say, of greater than 10 years) yet, as it is only relatively recently that cellphones have been so commonplace. Of course, the cell phone industry says there is no risk – but that’s what the tobacco industry said too. Now the state of Maine is contemplating requiring cell phones to carry a warning label.
We’ve covered our share of people doing stupid things with cell phones, but this one deserves a special entry all of its own.
A new Colorado “texting while driving” and “yakking on the phone while driving” law goes into effect at midnight. Starting on the 1st of December, under the new law, it is a criminal offense to text or otherwise enter data into a mobile device, from behind the wheel, while the vehicle is in motion. The new law also prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone at all while behind the wheel, hands-free or not.
One of our most often-read articles is What to Do if you’ve Lost Your Cell Phone or Your Cell Phone is Stolen, which tells us that this is an issue for a lot of people. Among other things, the article advises that you be sure to have your cell phone provider turn your cell phone off if you believe it to be stolen. This is still good advice, but there is one situation in which you may not want to have it turned off right away, and that is the situation where the thief is using your cell phone to make and receive calls, and/or to send and receive text messages.
Red Bull, the makers of Red Bull Energy Drink, are branching out – a lot. They are bringing online a line of Red Bull mobile phones – that’s right, the Red Bull cell phone. Red Bull says that the Red Bull Mobile phone service will bring you “the latest handsets, competitive tariffs and a complete package of mobile communication features. Even more, it gives unlimited access to the world of Red Bull. Welcome to our playground.”