Tag Archives | Smartphones

Using Smart Gadgets As Tools Of Social Control

How devices will soon begin pressuring us to “fix” our behavior. Via the Wall Street Journal, Evgeny Morozov writes:

Many smart technologies are heading in a disturbing direction. A number of thinkers in Silicon Valley see these technologies as a way not just to give consumers new products that they want but to push them to behave better. The central idea is clear: social engineering disguised as product engineering.

Last week in Singapore, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette restated Google’s notion that the world is a “broken” place whose problems, from traffic jams to inconvenient shopping experiences to excessive energy use, can be solved by technology. The futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal, a favorite of the TED crowd, also likes to talk about how “reality is broken” but can be fixed by making the real world more like a videogame, with points for doing good.

Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits.

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Neil Gaiman Wants You As His Co-Author

If the BlackBerry smartphone dies at the hands of iPhone and Android, it won’t be because the marketing team failed to rope in pop culture luminaries. Following the rather embarrassing announcement of iPhone user Alicia Keys as BlackBerry ambassador, Neil Gaiman is being promoted as a BlackBerry toting superhero of artistic collaboration:

Neil Gaiman is one of today’s best-loved authors. He famously collaborates with artists across the globe to create graphic novels, books, films, music and poetry.

Now he wants to collaborate with you.

Neil wants you to inspire him with themes for A Calendar of Tales. He’ll develop a collection of twelve tales from your ideas and then invite you to submit illustrations, choosing his favourite for each tale. This collection will transform into an amazing calendar showcasing your illustrations beside Neil’s stories.

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It Is Now A Felony To Unlock Your Smartphone

The gadgets that you paid for control you, not the other way around. The Atlantic on the most ridiculous law of 2013:

Starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers. Seriously: It’s embarrassing and unacceptable that we are at the mercy of prosecutorial and judicial discretion to avoid the implementation of draconian laws that could implicate average Americans in a crime subject to up to a $500,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

When did we decide that we wanted a law that could make unlocking your smartphone a criminal offense? The answer is that we never really decided. Instead, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. In practice it has terrible, and widely acknowledged, negative consequences that affect consumers and new innovation. The DMCA leaves it up to the Librarian of Congress (LOC) to issue exemptions from the law, exceptions that were recognized to be necessary given the broad language of the statute.

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Faulty iPhone Maps Could Kill You, Australian Authorities Warn

Is our reliance on GPS and mobile devices maps making us increasingly disoriented and oblivious? To me, the relevant aspect of this story is not that Apple’s map app is flawed, but that numerous people would drive to a remote, dangerous desert just because their smartphone told them to. Via Newser:

Apple’s much-maligned mapping system is so flawed that motorists who rely on it run the risk of ending up dead in the wilderness, Australia police warn. Over the last few weeks, six motorists have become stranded in Victoria state’s Murray Sunset National Park when following the map app’s directions to a city more than 40 miles away, CNET reports. Some iPhone users were stranded in the park for two hours without enough food and water.

Police in the area have urged drivers to rely on other forms of mapping. “Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the park,” they said in a statement, warning that temperatures in the park could reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit, making the map problem “a potentially life-threatening issue.” Apple has yet to comment on the issue.

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Multiple Media Usage Linked To Depression And Anxiety

Does use of media technologies deplete our mental health? Or is it that the depressed try to numb themselves with glowing rectangles? Medical News Today writes:

Using multiple forms of media at the same time – such as playing a cellphone game while watching TV – is linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression, scientists have found for the first time.

Michigan State University’s Mark Becker, lead investigator on the study, said he was surprised to find such a clear association between media multitasking and mental health problems. What’s not yet clear is the cause. “We don’t know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety, or if it’s that people who are depressed and anxious are turning to media multitasking as a form of distraction from their problems,” said Becker.

Participants were asked how many hours per week they used two or more of the primary forms of media, which include television, music, cell phones, text messaging, computer and video games, web surfing and others.

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Why We Should Take Fewer Pictures Of Our Children

Via the New York Times, David Zweig has a harrowing observation on the first generation of children raised under constant digital surveillance:

“I want to look at pictures on daddy’s phone!” I can’t recall when this entreaty started. I only know it has been repeated like a mantra nearly every day by my 3-year-old daughter for as long as I remember her being able to speak in sentences.

On the surface a child’s preoccupation with personal photos seems quite benign, or even beneficial. And yet I fear her photo obsession may hasten her self-consciousness to a degree that’s no longer constructive.

Our children’s lives are being documented to a degree never done before. I often have over 100 new pictures per month added to iPhoto on my computer. Like adults, kids often act differently when they know the camera is on. There’s a reason posed shots almost always seem so awkward and artificial compared with candid ones.

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Apple Moving Forward On Location-Based Disabling Of iPhone Cameras

Using your mobile device to take pictures of or film police, or a protest, or corporate property (or Mitt Romney speaking in a private meeting to his campaign donors) may become a relic of the past. Apple has patented its “geofencing” technology — in which camera/video phone functions will be remotely disarmed in particular locations, PetaPixel reports:

In June of last year, we reported on an unsettling patent filed by Apple that would allow certain infrared signals to remotely disable the camera on iPhones. It showed the potential downsides of bringing cameras into the world of wireless connectivity, which appears to be the next big thing in the camera industry. Now, a newly published patent is rekindling the fears of those who don’t want “Big Brother” controlling their devices.

If this type of technology became widely adopted and baked into cameras, photography could be prevented by simply setting a “geofence” around a particular location, whether it’s a movie theater, celebrity hangout spot, protest site.

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Our Smartphones Are Poised To Predict Our Every Move

When will happen when our gadgets know where we are going before we do? It’s on the verge of becoming reality, writes Slate:

Your cellphone knows where you’ve been. And new research shows it can take a pretty good guess at where you’re going next. A team of British researchers has developed an algorithm that uses tracking data on people’s phones to predict where they’ll be in 24 hours. The average error: just 20 meters.

That’s far more accurate than past studies that have tried to predict people’s movements. Studies have shown that most people follow fairly consistent patterns over time, but traditional prediction algorithms have no way of accounting for breaks in the routine.

The researchers solved that problem by combining tracking data from individual participants’ phones with tracking data from their friends—i.e., other people in their mobile phonebooks. By looking at how an individual’s movements correlate with those of people they know, the team’s algorithm is able to guess when she might be headed, say, downtown for a show on a Sunday afternoon rather than staying uptown for lunch as usual.

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Don’t Ask Siri About Tiananmen Square

Apple has unveiled Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking versions of iPhone voice-controlled personality Siri, known for her subservient manner and witicisms. But Siri isn’t willing to crack a joke about everything. It may or may not be a glitch, but she really does not want to discuss Tiananmen Square with you, so stick to asking questions about the weather and where to buy things. The Wall Street Journal writes:

Some users have tested her devotion to free speech by asking her questions about the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square crackdown—a topic she seems loathe to broach. One screenshot posted to Twitter shows Siri responding to the question “Do you know about the Tiananmen incident?” with the answer: “I couldn’t find any appointments related to ‘Do you know about Tiananmen.’” A second try with the question rephrased – “What happened on June 4, 1989?”—produced an even stranger response: “I’m sorry, the person you are looking for is not in your address book.”

A[nother] screenshot posted suggested Siri wasn’t even able to provide directions to Tiananmen Square.

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If You Have a Smart Phone, Anyone Can Now Track Your Every Move

NavisonChristopher Mims spills the beans for Technology Review:
Location services company Navizon has a new system, called Navizon I.T.S., that could allow tracking of visitors in malls, museums, offices, factories, secured areas and just about any other indoor space. It could be used to examine patterns of foot traffic in retail spaces, assure that a museum is empty of visitors at closing time, or even to pinpoint the location of any individual registered with the system. But let's set all that aside for a minute while we freak out about the privacy implications. Most of us leave Wi-Fi on by default, in part because our phones chastise us when we don't. (Triangulation by Wi-Fi hotspots is important for making location services more accurate.) But you probably didn't realize that, using proprietary new "nodes" from Navizon, any device with an active Wi-Fi radio can be seen by a system like Navizon's. To demonstrate the technology, here's Navizon CEO and founder Cyril Houri hunting for one of his colleagues at a trade show using a kind of first person shooter-esque radar.
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