Tag Archives: cellphones

The House GOP Plan To Gut The FCC

Today, as phone, video, and broadcast services have become merely bits passing over a wire, Congress’s intentions embodied in the 1996 Act have been completely subverted. Through a wave of mergers and years of litigation (helped along by some gymnastic labeling fiestas by the FCC), new companies have found it almost impossible to compete.

We have Ma Cell instead of Ma Bell, with just two companies — AT&T and Verizon — utterly dominant, their vast spectrum holdings, control over handset manufacturing, and provision of backhaul adding up to moats around their businesses that Sprint and T-Mobile can’t cross. We have a handful of cable incumbents — chiefly Comcast and Time Warner — controlling high-speed wired access to everything at whatever prices they want to charge.

Given this context, and its direct impact on consumers’ pocketbooks and innovation in America, you’d think that Congress would want to have an empowered regulator able to do something to protect the country from the rational, profit-seeking depredations of our new generation of monopolists.

Instead, the House Republicans are going in exactly the opposite direction. They’re lining up big-company support to push legislation early next week on the floor of the House that would gut the FCC. The bill, H.R. 3309, is called the “FCC Process Reform Act of 2011.”

Cellphones Don’t Cause Cancer! via @mashable

Over the past couple of years, reports have suggested that cellphones may cause cancer or claimed the opposite. However, the interesting thing about this latest study is that it’s sample size is the entire adult population of Denmark.

Researchers from Copenhagen’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health divided Danish adults (30 years of age and over) born after 1925 into subscribers and non-subscribers of mobile phones before 1995. The study found that occurrences of cancer among the two groups were nearly equal.

Furthermore, among mobile phone subscribers, the study didn’t find an increased number of occurrences of glioma in the temporal lobes of the brain, the part of the body most directly exposed to cellphone radiation.

Well, that’s good news. I often find myself thinking “Gosh, i hope all this wifi isn’t going straight to my head.”

Warrantless cell phone search gets a green light in California

According to the California Supreme Court, police don’t need a warrant to start digging through your phone’s contents.

[the defendant] had argued that the warrantless search of his phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights, but the trial court said that anything found on his person at the time of arrest was “really fair game in terms of being evidence of a crime.”

The decision was not unanimous, though. “The potential intrusion on informational privacy involved in a police search of a person‟s mobile phone, smartphone or handheld computer is unique among searches of an arrestee’s person and effects,” Justices Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Carlos Moreno wrote in dissent.

They went on to argue that the court majority’s opinion would allow police “carte blanche, with no showing of exigency, to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person. The majority thus sanctions a highly intrusive and unjustified type of search, one meeting neither the warrant requirement nor the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

I wonder if the police can force you to unlock your password-protected phone, or if that order would constitute the unreasonable part of the search? 

Also, I’m surprised to not hear any argument about the data not actually existing on your person, the same way a piece of hair or a paint chip would.  Sure, the cell phone’s physical case travels in your pocket, but identifying exactly where the incriminating data resides is a bit more tricky.  A text message certainly is stored on the phone itself, but what about emails?  They’re downloaded to the phone, but would most accurately be described as living in the cloud – because they can be accessed from numerous different portals. 

And this is no small point.  Whereas a piece of hair from a murder victim or a fingerpriont does pretty much conclusively show your physical presence at the location, given we can only exist in one place, data does not.  The text message could have been sent from any number of devices, and consumed from afar, even by people other than the defendant.  It seems an extraordinarily shirtsighted decision to treat ephemeral data as if it had a physical presence – and to therefore applies to same rules of physics to it.