Believe it or not, as of Saturday, 2/2/13, it became illegal to unlock your cell phone. Or to unlock anybody else’s cell phone. The failure by the LIbrary of Congress to renew an unlocking exemption to the DMCA means that you must seek permission from the carrier or phone manufacturer before you can unlock your cell phone. If you don’t? You can face prison time. Just ask Sina Khanifar, who in fact was threatened with up to 5 years in prison. His crime? Unlocking his Motorola Razr.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
Now here’s an interesting idea. Officials in several cities in Mexico have outfitted the cities’ taxi drivers with government-provided pre-paid Grupo Iusacell cell phones, to be used to provide on-the-spot reporting of incidents such as accidents, fights, and crimes, as well as public hazards such as public lights being out, and water leaks. Dubbed the “Taxista Vigilante” program, by all accounts it is working exceedingly well.
Ah, the cell phone. That ubiquitous little device that so many drivers now take for granted – that kids tote to school (little Johnny may not be able to read, but boy can he text) – that everybody, absolutely everybody has. Including prisoners and inmates. And cell phones in jail and prison have become a huge problem.
Blockbuster Video has announced that users will be able to watch thousands of movies from the Block buster catalog on their cell phones in the near future. Part of Blockbuster’s On Demand service, Blockbuster says that compatible mobile phones will have “on-the-go download access to Block buster’s digital library of thousands of current BLOCKBUSTER OnDemand movies.”
Cell phone tracking via GPS and location privacy is starting to emerge as a big issue, especially with more GPS enabled cell phones on the market. e911 rules require that your cell phone transmit your location data when you make a 911 call. But some people are finding that their GPS cell phones are transmitting their location all the time.