A state appeals court in California ruled that while it may be illegal to text-message or talk on a mobile phone while driving, it is not illegal to use the mobile phone as a navigation device. A Fresno driver was pulled over and given a $165 ticket after a highway patrol officer observed him using his smartphone to look at a map. According to SFGate.com, this marks “the first appellate interpretation of a 2006 state law that restricts handheld uses of a mobile telephone while driving.”
The law was passed before the smartphone revolution that made the device much more than a phone, although there were some rudimentary navigation services on older devices. However, the law does allow for hands-free use of the phone, via headset or Bluetooth interface, so limits to the kinds of distractions that are illegal were written in at the start.
One does not need quantitative statistics to reach the conclusion that if a driver becomes distracted, he or she is more likely to be involved in an accident. However, some distractions are unavoidable, while others are simply calculated risks. For example, driving while talking on the phone is a distraction because no matter how one does it, some part of one's attention will be off of the road. Hands-free conversations allow the driver to keep both hands on the wheel, limiting the distraction but not removing it completely.
To try to legislate against all distractions would be counterproductive and might sour the public against the idea of any such regulation. Blanket bans against the usage of mobile devices seem to be over-cautious at best, with many critics identifying them as another example of the “nanny state.” Since looking at a paper map is perfectly legal while driving, it makes sense that looking at a digital map should be treated in the same way, especially considering the audio features of many navigation applications.
Instead, it seems laws like “Jake’s Law” in Maryland have gotten it right. According to WBAL, the law’s main goal is "to create tougher penalties for drivers who cause crashes as a result of using their cellphone while driving.” This treats device-related distracted driving much like drunk driving, wherein the penalties come as a result of recklessness on the road and do not rely on officers to actively police the inside of motorists’ vehicles.
With the preponderance of the use of satellite technology—from broadcasting television to providing walking directions to people’s smartphones—one would imagine that the area just above the atmosphere is cluttered with them. However, there are less than 3000 satellites up there doing “a job.”
There are between 20,000-35,000 objects spiraling around the Earth at any given time, mostly debris from space missions. In order to keep a better eye on all of that stuff whirling above our heads, the U.S. Air Force recently declassified their plan to launch a satellite system for just that purpose.
Called a “neighborhood watch” satellite by General William Shelton, the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program “will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking” both space-debris and the activities of foreign satellites, according to Reuters. While the GSSAP will monitor the positions of purposeful satellites in order to avoid collisions with space junk—which travels at about 17,000 miles-per-hour—it will also remain on guard for satellites that are trying to avoid detection, perhaps for the purposes of monitoring U.S. interests or other clandestine activities.
The GSSAP are scheduled to go up in the last quarter of 2014 on an unmanned Delta 4 rocket, and critics wonder why the U.S. government declassified the program and effectively informed “our enemies” of this satellite’s capabilities. Yet, according to Brian Weeden, technical advisor with the Secure World Foundation and quoted by Reuters, that is precisely what the Obama Administration intended. He says they are “being more honest when [they say] it declassified this program to try and deter attacks on U.S. satellites.”
Rather than catching adversaries or, worse, allies attempting to interfere with our national satellite system, the White House prefers to simply let everyone know that they have the ability to monitor the satellites closely.
The Armatix Smart System iP1, a new gun from Germany that is being sold in California, won’t fire unless it’s in range of a special wristwatch worn by the gun’s owner.
When the wristwatch and the Armatix iP1 are close enough to each other, a light in the gun turns from red to green.
Gun control advocates are supporting this new "smart gun," but so are gun rights proponents.
“It could revolutionize the gun industry,” James Mitchell, owner of the Oak Tree Gun Club, told The Washington Post.
However, the National Rifle Association isn't happy about about this new gun.
The NRA's lobbying arm is worried that smart guns have “the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner’s agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology."
However, Belinda Padilla, president of Armatix’s U.S. office, disagrees. "If you have two cars, and one has an air bag and one doesn’t, are you going to buy the one without the air bag?" she said. "It’s your choice, but why would you do that?”
According to ExtremeTech.com, the Armatix iP1 costs $1,399, while the watch is $399. It may be a worthwhile investment to create a safer country.
While Comcast plans to buy Time-Warner Cable and takeover the cable/Internet market, the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has its own plan: to provide free Internet for the whole planet.
MDIF hopes to launch hundreds of low-cost miniature satellites into low Earth orbit (pictured), notes the Daily Mail.
MDIF is going to use datacasting, which sends data via radio waves and will theoretically broadcast the web around the world in what they call the "Outernet."
But MDIF first needs to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations, which they accept on their website.
"We have a very solid understand of the costs involved, as well as experience working on numerous spacecraft," MDIF's Syed Karim stated on the social media site Reddit.
"There isn't a lot of raw research that is being done here; much of what is being described has already been proven by other small satellite programs and experiments. There's really nothing that is technically impossible to this," added Karim.
A new device that costs only $26 to build can take over your car if it is physically plugged into your vehicle's Controller Area Network (CAN) bus.
Your CAN bus allows computerized devices inside your car to communicate without a host computer, and this new device, called the CAN Hacking Tool or CHT, can control your CAN bus.
The CHT recently made its debut at the DefCon 21 Hacking Conference (video below).
According to Jalopnik.com, once installed in your car, the CHT is controlled via wireless Bluetooth, which would give anyone with a cell phone control over your vehicle.
The developers of the CHT, Alberto Garcia Illera and Javier Vazquez Vidal, claimed they wanted to play with the settings of their cars to get better gas mileage.
The CHT uses a protocol designed for cars manufactured before 2010, but Vidal and Illera said the CHT could be configured for newer protocols and cars.
While the CHT creators do not have any criminal intent, it is possible that car thieves could use the CHT to control your car's headlights, steering, brakes, locks and alarms, noted the Daily Mail.
“It can take five minutes or less to hook it up and then walk away,” Vidal told Forbes. “We could wait one minute or one year, and then trigger it to do whatever we have programmed it to do.”
U.S. Military personnel and CIA operatives in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan are using their targets' cell phone locations based on metadata from the National Security Agency (NSA) to launch drone attacks, which leads to the deaths of innocent civilians, says a new report.
According to The Intercept, NSA documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden and statements by a former drone operator say the NSA uses "geolocation," which locks onto the SIM card of a cell phone of a suspected terrorist.
The NSA's "Geo Cell" program does not verify whether the carrier of the cell phone is actually the suspected terrorist. Instead of confirming a target with human intelligence on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a drone strike based on the activity and location of the cell phone.
“They might have been terrorists,” said the former drone operator. “Or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”
“Once the bomb lands or a night raid happens, you know that phone is there, but we don’t know who’s behind it, who’s holding it. It’s of course assumed that the phone belongs to a human being who is nefarious and considered an ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’" the former drone operator adds. "This is where it gets very shady.”
Based on his experience, the former drone operator believes that drone attacks are basically death sentences based on unreliable metadata.
Lest anyone accuse Snowden of informing the terrorists of U.S. secrets, they already know how the drone attack system works.
Some Taliban leaders intentionally distribute SIM cards among their units in order to elude the United States.
“They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” the former drone operator said. “That’s how they confuse us.”
Some unaware terrorist suspects may loan their cell phones to friends and family, who get killed by drones instead.
“It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone," Brandon Bryant, another former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, told The Intercept. "We’re not going after people, we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy."
RT.com notes that this new information contradicts claims by the Obama administration, which has said that drone strikes are conducted with precision accuracy to minimize civilian casualties.
"Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” President Barack Obama said in 2013.
According to a 2012 study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone have killed far more people than the United States will admit, reported CNN.
It seems like a problem ripe for science-fiction: whether or not to mandate a permanent “kill switch” in mobile devices to stop the statistically high number of smartphone thefts in California. A bill was finally unveiled by State Sen. Mark Leno and District Attorney George Gascon of San Francisco that, if passed, will require all phones sold in California to have the ability by 2015.
According to RT.com, thefts of mobile phones “account for almost one in three U.S. robberies” and the instances are even higher in California. The proposed law would require the installation of a mechanism that could permanently disable the device, ending all potential for the phone to be reactivated in America or abroad.
Given that Americans currently spend about $7.8 billion in phone insurance, San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr told the Associated Press, “I can’t imagine someone would vote against” this proposed law. However, CTIA, a trade group for wireless providers, disputes the assertion that phone insurance is its only worry.
The main concern about a permanent kill switch embedded in smartphones is that, like any device connected to the internet, it is susceptible to hacking. A recent NBC News report about hacking in Sochi, Russia is but one example of how vulnerable our data really can be. Government officials or public profile individuals who use smartphones could face an extra risk of attack from hackers looking to exploit the kill switch.
Phone insurance is both aggressively pushed by wireless providers and not a terrible idea for consumers who are purchasing very expensive pieces of technology. Shattered screens, broken buttons, and myriad other problems that can affect the phone make the insurance a product consumers want. It seems as if California lawmakers are treating a side-effect and not the disease. There are other ways to reduce this specific criminal problem than by placing restrictions on citizens and private companies.
A new poll shows that Americans prefer their smartphones, Internet access, cars, laptops and TV over sex.
The new study by Harris Interactive shows that while 20 percent of Americans say they can't live without sex, but 26 percent couldn’t live without using their smartphones.
Sex also got beat by the Internet, automobiles, laptop computers and televisions, notes the Daily Mail.
The poll also found that almost three quarters of adults say technology enriches their lives, almost half believe it helps their relationships and close to 40 percent claim that technology makes them happier.
But food topped technology and everything else with 73 percent of the vote.
Sex was able to beat computer tablets, social networking sites and GPS devices (navigation).
Even with all this love for technology, 69 percent did admit that gadgets were too distracting.
Just a few months after Google banned Tits and Glass, an app that let users film point-of-view pornography using their Google Glasses, a new company has developed an app that lets Glass wearers identify strangers just by looking at their face.
The app is called NameTag and uses real-time facial recognition software to match a stranger’s face to his or her social media profile. Once a match is made, NameTag will display all available information about the person being viewed, including age, marital status, career, and interests.
As if we should all be excited about this, NameTag brags that it "can detect a face using the Google Glass camera, send it wirelessly to a server, compare it to millions of records, and in seconds return a match complete with a name, additional photos and social media profiles."
Kevin Alan Tussy, the app’s primary creator, spoke to The Independent about his creation.
"It's not about invading anyone's privacy," NameTag's creator claimed. "It's about connecting people that want to be connected. We will even allow users to have one profile that is seen during business hours and another that is seen in social situations. NameTag can make the big, anonymous world we live in as friendly as a small town."
But is the app really about connecting people who want to be connected?
Rather than asking users to opt-in to allow their information to be used on NameTag, the company automatically uses publicly available information unless people specifically opt out. They assume consent unless explicitly told otherwise. That’s a dangerous precedent to set.
Facial recognition software remains banned on Glass for now. But as Independant writer James Vincent points out, Glasses can be jailbroken -- that is, freed from manufacturer restrictions -- just like a mobile phone.
You don't see many people walking around with Google Glass on yet. With apps like NameTag being developed, that's probably a good thing.
More and more tech companies are pushing users to store their content in "cloud" services, which are basically online depositories.
Originally made popular by Dropbox.com, these cloud services offer a certain amount of storage space for free, but then start charging users for extra files.
Cloud services are offered by Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other big (and small) players on the web. iPhones and Android phones are also getting in on cloud services, which were originally a convenient option.
However, Scientific American notes that some large tech companies are slowly eliminating the option for users not to use cloud storage.
Apple's new operating system Mavericks does not allow to users to sync their computer’s calendar or address book with an iPhone or tablet. Now, you can only sync your content via an Apple iCloud account.
With Windows 8 and 8.1, you can log on to your PC with either a local account on your computer or an online Microsoft account.
But without an online Microsoft account, you can't access SkyDrive or download apps from the Windows store.
What the web giants don't tell you is that cloud users are at the mercy of these corporations to access their own content. If a cloud site goes down, so does access to your content.
There is also the issue of privacy. Amazon landed a $600 million contract to create a private cloud for the CIA in 2013, reports InformationWeek.com. But will this new relationship compromise the security and privacy of other Amazon cloud users?
Apple, Google and Microsoft are also in possession of user's cloud content, which could be secretly accessed by the (National Security Agency) NSA. The agency's covert, mass spying activities have all cloud companies concerned about losing business, according to CRN.com.
The Independent reported in 2013, "All personal information stored by British internet users on major 'cloud' computing services including Google Drive can be spied upon routinely without their knowledge by US authorities under newly-approved legislation."