The new police search battlefield: your cell phone
Feb 22nd, 2010 by scaredpoet

One thing that really annoys me about the tattered state of civil rights in the US is how technology is being used by law enforcement as a means to short-circuit basic privacy protections. Flying under the banner of things like “Homeland Security,” the common excuse seems to be made these newfangled desktop and mobile computer-machines don’t operate like the old, analog, physical things that used to replace them, and so somehow, this means the existing laws don’t apply. Sadly, it also seems like lawmakers are in no rush at all to make it clear that our Fourth Amendment Rights apply whether or not our belongings are stashed in a physical box, or whether they’re accessible via a keyboard or touch screen.

The latest arena for the battle for your privacy is your cell phone, and so far, law enforcement is on the offensive here.

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Sprint knows where you are, and so does the feds.
Dec 2nd, 2009 by scaredpoet


Remember not too long ago, when there was a huge fervor over warrantless wiretapping?  Back in the bad old days of the Bush Administration (and maybe even today), Verizon and AT&T willingly participated in permitting the NSA to monitor communications traffic on their networks, without the need for silly little things like, oh, search warrants and due process.  And boy, everyone sure got all in a huff when they found out!  Despite it being an extension of legislation hurriedly rushed into law to appease a panicky public, the citizenry refused (as they often do) to look at themselves in the mirror for being panicky petes, and instead the “Big Two” carriers mentioned above got the brunt of the public’s ire.  Lawsuits were threatened and all kinds of punishments were dreamed up for the corporate actors in this conspiracy, all while the Bush administration pretty much got shrugged off by the general public for, well, doing what they always did.

Another company to get a pass was Sprint.  You just didn’t hear about what their involvement might’ve been.

But it looks like now more than ever, surveillance is alive and well, and Sprint is making it incredibly easy for Law Enforcement to find out where any use of their network might be.  So easy in fact, that Law Enforcement has tracked the wherabouts of Sprint users more than 8 million times in the past year alone!

Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.

The evidence documenting this surveillance program comes in the form of an audio recording of Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance, who described it during a panel discussion at a wiretapping and interception industry conference, held in Washington DC in October of 2009.

Consider that Sprint has about 49.3 million customers.  Even if you assume that some users were no doubt tracked more than once, that’s still a pretty astonishing number.  Are there really millions of sleeping terrorists chatting and texting on Sprint phones?  Or has the government continued to be way, way too willing to disregard the freedoms of its citizens in the name of homeland security, while Sprint passively sits by and allows it to happen?

Newton: The iPhone’s grandaddy
Nov 2nd, 2009 by scaredpoet

Newton MP 120 and iPhone 3GS

Before the iPhone, before Windows Mobile, and before Palm, there was the grandaddy of all smartphones and modern handheld computers: the Newton MessagePad.  Back when I was in high school, I wanted one of these so badly. Alas, $700-plus for the MessagPad 2100 back in 1997, was not something I nor anyone I knew at the time could afford.

Over a decade and over a dozen smartphones later, I sit with an iPhone and hear old-timers talk about how revolutionary the Newton is even today.  I would scoff thinking we’ve come a long way from those bulky old things.  Then this Youtube video caught my eye…

Granted, the iPhone now has cut and paste, something it lacked when this vide was made. But there’s a lot of contextual features that modern smartphones still don’t have. Although it doesn’t play videos, take photos, display color or even make phone calls, I have to say there’s stil a few interesting things this video demonstrates that I really wish existed on modern handhelds today.

A techno-fetish goes unchecked
Aug 26th, 2009 by scaredpoet

Evil iPhone

I’ve come to the realization that there appear to be a number of technologists out there who are in serious need of therapy.

We sorta new this when people first started getting addicted to their Blackberries. Now it seems, we have a small but very loud and vocal segment of people who both use their iPhones and utterly hate them at the same time, and totally refuse to shut up about it!

Case in point: this article. Is the author nuts? You decide:

Not long ago, I would have confessed, with the shame that some people feel over having had multiple spouses, that I have been the owner of multiple iPhones. As with any bad union, there is a story behind each one’s demise. My starter phone lasted for a little more than a year, until the battery got old and the phone, which had never behaved well, really began to act up. The next one wasn’t around long: I dropped it; it shattered. My third, a fussbudget sort, got a little bit damp and refused to work. Now, I am on my fourth iPhone, whose screen cracked weeks ago, and which plagues me daily with its many bugs and quirks and connectivity issues. But the thought of yet another trip to the Apple Store Genius Bar (“the Smartass Bar,” as one friend calls it) fills me with the sort of deep, skeletal exhaustion and existential dread I might feel were I told I had to attend couples counseling for a fourth go-round. I’d rather not deal with it.

The author’s neuroticism only gets worse from there. She decides the problem isn’t her expectations that technology will save her from the tedium of life, but the device itself for not living up to the salvation-capable qualities she’s placed on it.

Folks, let’s be clear about something: that phone you have in your pocket? Doesn’t matter if it’s a Palm Pre, and BlackBerry, an iPhone, a smartphone or a dumbphone. It’s just a piece of plastic, glass and metal. It’s not going to save you from your personality deficiencies. It’s not going to cure your ills. It’s just a gadget. And if it’s controlling your life and causing you tons of anguish, then guess what? Maybe it’s just a little more tech than you can handle, and it’s time to end the “relationship.”

Seriously! This “author” is blaming the device for the dysfunctional relationship she’s having with it. She’s anthropomorphized it, given it these savior qualities, clearly abuses it, and then is disappointed when it fails to meet up to the savior-like expectations she’s imbued upon it. Then refuses to acknowledge where the problem is. Yet, despite her professed hate and the numerous times she’s destroyed her little “relationship,” she still plunks down hundreds of dollars, again, and goes back for more.

If it wasn’t an inanimate object, then I’m sure we’d be seeing police cars at her place on a frequent basis, breaking the two sides up for the night, possibly even sending one side to spend a night in a cell. It’s kinda sad, really.

What’s the first step to treating an addiction? I believe it’s admitting you have a problem. Unfortunately, the author is not there yet. At the risk of depriving us all of these droll pieces of literature she writes, the author should stop spending her cash on iPhones, and start spending it on a therapist.

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