April 18, 2012
By Madison Ruppert
“Big brother is out of control – here is just one more example.” –KTRN
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially cleared Google of any and all wrongdoing in connection to their practice of covertly intercepting data from unencrypted Wi-Fi routers in the United States.
With Google set to start monitoring environmental information for targeted advertisements, gain Regina Dugan of DARPA, and even further expand their Big Brother policies all while maintaining a tight relationship with the government, this decision is somewhat par for the course.
That being said, this finding was still somewhat surprising since a federal judge previously ruled that Google could, in fact, be held liable for violating federal wiretapping legislation, which would thus potentially open Google up to lawsuits from individuals seeking damages.
It was not only a judge who found Google’s claims to be laughable, in fact Joel Burin, the Bureau of Consumer and Governmental Affairs chief, wrote in 2010, “Google’s behavior also raises important concerns. Whether intentional or not, collecting information sent over Wi-Fi networks clearly infringes on consumer privacy.”
In an order made public on Monday (which you can read below with a great deal of redacted information, unfortunately), reflecting a decision made by the commission on Friday, it is said that Google did not violate any wiretapping laws when they snooped on open wireless networks with their Google Street View mapping vehicles.
The FCC said that between 2008 and 2010, “Google’s Street View cars collected names, addresses, telephone numbers, URL’s, passwords, e-mail, text messages, medical records, video and audio files, and other information from internet users in the United States.”
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January 9, 2012
Broadcast Law Blog
By David Oxenford
The FCC issued a declaratory ruling this week finding that Anderson Cooper’s new talk show appeared to be a bona fide news interview program exempt from equal opportunities under the FCC’s political broadcasting rules interpreting the mandate of Section 315 of the Communications Act. This ruling is another in a series of rulings by the FCC making clear that virtually any interview-type program on which a candidate appears, that is not administered in a partisan fashion and which is regularly scheduled and regularly conducts interviews with newsmakers or discusses political issues, is exempt from equal time. The FCC has, in the past, issued such rulings for programs as diverse as the Phil Donahue program, Geraldo, Howard Stern, Entertainment Tonight, Today and a variety of other programs. As we have written before, these decisions stem from the FCC’s belief that people no longer get their news from the stereotypical Sunday morning news interview program, but instead they find news of interest in programs that might otherwise be considered entertainment or even comedy, but which regularly touch on political topics. As long as these programs are not administered so as to be a mouthpiece for a party or candidate, but instead pick their guest based on some form of journalistic discretion (“journalistic” being a very broad term – one that covers any sort of reasonable judgment as to newsworthiness or topicality), the fact that the program talks to one candidate for a public office does not require a station carrying the program to give equal time to all other candidates for that same office.
October 25, 2011
By Buck Sexton
If you have ever wondered about the government’s ability to control the civilian airwaves, you will have your answer on November 9th.
On that day, federal authorities are going to shut off all television and radio communications simultaneously at 2:00PM EST to complete the first ever test of the national Emergency Alert System (EAS).
This isn’t a wild conspiracy theory. The upcoming test is posted on the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau website.
Only the President has the authority to activate EAS at the national level, and he has delegated that authority to the Director of FEMA. The test will be conducted jointly by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS).
In essence, the authority to seize control of all television and civilian communication has been asserted by the executive branch and handed to a government agency.
The EAS has been around since 1994. Its precursor, the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS), started back in 1963. Television and radio broadcasters, satellite radio and satellite television providers, cable television and wireline video providers are all involved in the system.
So this begs the question: is the first ever national EAS test really a big deal?
Probably not. At least, not yet.
But there are some troubling factors all coming together right now that could conceivably trigger a real usage of the EAS system in the not too distant future. A European financial collapse could bring down U.S. markets. What is now the “Occupy” movement could lead to widespread civil unrest. And there are ominous signs that radical groups such as Anonymous will attempt something major on November 5th- Guy Fawke’s day.
Now we know in the event of a major crisis, the American people will be told with one voice, at the same time, about an emergency.
All thats left to determine is who will have control of the EAS when that day comes, and what their message will be.
October 17, 2011
The Washington Post
By: Cecilia Kang
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Monday said he will put a pending “bill shock” regulation on hold after the wireless industry promised to create its own program to alert consumers when they are about to be charged overage fees.
The move sparked new questions about how the FCC would monitor cellphone billing problems — one of the most pressing pocketbook concerns for households relying on cellphones but facing increasing fees.
During an announcement of the industry-led effort that was first reported Friday in The Washington Post, Genachowski touted the agreement by wireless companies to warn users when they are about to go over monthly limits for voice, data, and texting and incur international roaming fees.
Genachowski pointed to several examples of just how bad the problem can be. He mentioned a woman he had met who was charged $34,000 for international data and texting charges when visiting her sister in Haiti after the 2009 earthquake. He also mentioned meeting a man who was charged $18,000 when his free data downloads expired without warning.
One year ago, Genachowski brought people who had suffered from bill shock to Washington to give testimonials as he introduced a regulation to force carriers to give text and voice alerts.
Under the industry-led effort, the alerts will be free and automatically available to the nation’s 300 million wireless customers, according to trade group CTIA. Customers will get two of those notifications by Oct. 17, 2012, and all service alerts by April 17, 2013.
The announcement is considered a win for the wireless industry that has already moved toward voluntary warnings of overage charges and fought against government policies that would police their practices.
“Today’s initiative is a perfect example of how government agencies and industries they regulate can work together under President Obama’s recent executive order directing federal agencies to consider whether new rules are necessary or would unnecessarily burden businesses and the economy,” CTIA president Steve Largent said.
Genachowski said he would put his own proposal — introduced last October — on hold. When asked during a question-and-answer period how the FCC would monitor the industry’s efforts, Genachowski didn’t offer details but said: “We expect compliance. If not, will take appropriate action . . . but neither of us think that will happen.”
Consumers Union, the author of Consumer Reports, hailed the announcement. The advocacy group is working with the FCC on a Web site that monitors the billing alert plan by the wireless industry.
Others were critical, saying the FCC’s bill shock proposal was among the most important policy rules the agency could pursue for consumers. During stubbornly difficult economic times and with carriers ending unlimited service plans, consumers are vulnerable to shocking monthly bills.
Joel Kelsey, a policy analyst at public interest group Free Press, said he needed to see more details about the industry effort. But he was skeptical that voluntary standards would fully protect consumers.
“Wireless carriers are not charities — they will make the most revenue they can from their user base,” Kelsey said. “And since competition is weak in this industry there aren’t natural incentives for companies to be on their best behavior.”
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June 2nd, 2011
By: Cathy Becker and Katie Kindelan
After a World Health Organization study concluded cancer, some are wondering what else in their homes and their everyday lives may be just as, or even more, dangerous to their health.
The World Health Organization, whose International Agency for Research on Cancer announced the results of its year-long cell phone study Tuesday, estimates that there are 5 billion cell phone users globally, representing nearly three-quarters of the world’s population.
A family of those 5 billion cell phone users can be found in the New York City home of Steve and Elizabeth Howard,and their two young sons, 9 month-old Luke and three year-old Graham.
Steve and Elizabeth, owners of five cellphones and an iPad among them, were initially calm in reacting to the multi-country study released by WHO that found people who used cell phones most often, an average of 30 minutes per day over 10 years, had a 40 percent higher risk for a rare brain tumor called a glioma.
“I kind of let it go in one ear and out the other,” Steve, the father, told “Good Morning America.”
The Howards’ ambivalent response could be a case of “the boy who cried wolf,” a response to the roughly 30 other studies that have tried, and failed, to establish any link between cell phones and cancer since cell phones hit the consumer market in the late 1970s.
What’s More Dangerous, Cell Phones or Microwave Ovens?
One study even found those who used cell phones occasionally had a lower cancer risk than those who used old-fashioned land lines.
But the latest decision from WHO placed cell phones on a list of possible carcinogens that includes the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.
Working as a hairdresser is considered riskier than using a cellphone, according to the IARC’s classification system, achieving “probable carcinogen” status. Other possible carcinogens include working as a dry cleaner or a firefighter.
Findings like those in the WHO study got the Howards questioning what else could be lurking in their home as a possible cancer risk. And are the radiation levels really that dangerous?
ABC News brought in Michael Knox, an electrical engineering professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to examine the Howards’ home, testing their cell phone, Wi-Fi enabled computer and microwave, each a vital part of the Howards’ daily life.
“If I looked at these signal levels,” Knox said of the radio waves popping on his testing device. “If I had to say which one do you want to stay away from the most? The microwave oven. If anything, it’s transmitting a lot of energy,” he said.
Knox’s conclusion, that other items in the home may be even more dangerous than cell phones, matches the reaction among many doctors and experts to the WHO study, who say the data on cellphone use and brain cancer is still inconclusive.
“While experimental evidence and very limited human studies suggest that we should be cautious, people should realize there are many things we are exposed to every day that also is classified by IARC as possibly carcinogenic,” said Dr. Peter Shields, chief of Georgetown University Hospital’s cancer genetics and epidemiology program in Washington, D.C. “The classification used by IARC for cellphones is the lowest of all the carcinogenic classes, and no one should think that cell phones pose the same risk as smoking and asbestos.”
The WHO decided, in effect, to err on the side of caution.
Microwave Ovens May Be More Dangerous Than Cell Phones
“[The] IARC is saying that we should be cautious and think through what we do when we regulate exposures from cell phones,” Shields told ABC News. “They follow the precautionary principle and want to maximally protect public health.”
Nevertheless, some experts believe the evidence, inconclusive as it is, warrants caution. ABC News reached out to 92 physicians, 65 of whom said they would continue to hold their cellphones up to their ear, but 27 said they will use hands-free devices to minimize their risk.
The Howards say after the visit from Knox, they too plan to take similar caution.
“My children are so young I would want to limit the amount that they’re interacting with this sort of stuff,” said Elizabeth, noting she had previously allowed even 3-year-old Graham, to have his own cell phone, although it was not set up to make calls.
Researchers at the University of Utah established that the radiation dose is much higher inside the brains of 5- and 10-year-olds than in adults, a major concern as more children adopt cell phones.
Cell phone safety options for the Howards, and the world’s other 5 billion cell phone users, include texting more and talking less, or using hands-free devices.
“Use a wired ear piece, that absolutely has a minimal amount of radiation, or even use a Bluetooth which has substantially less radiation than a cell phone,” advised Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society, to ABC News.
In the U.S., the Federal Communication Commission set a maximum limit of 1.6 watts per kilo of body tissue. However, they did not test phones being carried directly in a person’s pocket, just inside of belt holsters. So far, the recommendation continues to be to hold your cell phone about one inch away from your body.