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Scientists Sue FCC for Dismissing Studies Linking Cell Phone Radiation to Cancer
USA Created: 7 Feb 2020
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has filed a lawsuit alleging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) failed to update cellular phone and wireless radiofrequency (RF) radiation limits and cellular phone testing methods in over two decades. These failures, the plaintiffs contend, ignore “peer-reviewed scientific studies showing that radiation from cell phones and cell phone towers and transmitters is associated with severe health effects in humans, including cancer, DNA damage, damage to the reproductive organs, and brain damage (including memory problems).”

Law&Crime obtained an exclusive copy of the lawsuit from Nobel co-laureate Devra Davis, who currently serves as president of the Environmental Health Trust (EHT), the lead plaintiffs in the action.

”The FCC has for years failed to protect public health by relying on 24-year-old safety tests designed when phones were the size of a shoe and used by few,” Davis told Law&Crime via email. ”We filed this appeal in order to insist that the agency take full measure of the U.S. government and other scientific evidence that cellphone radiation can be harmful.”

Davis continued, noting the FCC’s hands-off approach to cell phone-related regulation over the last three presidential administrations.

”The agency has dismissed hundreds of scientific studies submitted to its inquiry on wireless radiation and the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others, without providing any rationale for doing so,” she said.

The lawsuit specifically accuses the FCC of violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and is requesting an appeal of the agency’s prior order denying to revisit cellular phone standards. From the filing:

[The FCC] (1) has improperly terminated a Notice of Inquiry begun in 2013 to review, update, and amend its emission exposure limits for radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted by telecommunications devices and facilities, including but not limited to cell phones and cell phone towers and transmitters; (2) has improperly revised the criteria for determining when a licensee is exempt from its RF exposure evaluation criteria and the methods that RF equipment operators can use to mitigate the risk of excess exposure to the public and to workers; and (3) has improperly denied a petition for reconsideration of the [FCC’s] finding, and otherwise improperly rejected public comments, that the pinnae (outer ears) should be treated like other extremities for purposes of determining compliance with the RF emission exposure limits.

“The [FCC’s prior] Order exceeds the [FCC’s] statutory authority and poses significant risks to the public health, safety, and security,” the filing continues.

The plaintiffs’ attorney Edward Myers slammed the FCC’s prior decision in comments to Law&Crime.

“The FCC’s order terminated an inquiry into the adequacy of existing health and safety standards for radiofrequency radiation from wireless devices and facilities, including cell phones and cell phone towers and transmitters,” he said. “The existing regulations were promulgated in 1996 based on scientific data from 1992 and the FCC had commenced the inquiry in 2013 after the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report finding that the existing standards may be based on outdated science and may need to be updated.”

Myers continued, clarifying the relief sought:

In challenging the FCC’s decision, the petitioners contend that the agency has unlawfully disregarded a large body of evidence in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, among others. This evidence includes numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies showing that radiation from cell phones and cell phone towers and transmitters is associated with severe health effects in humans, including cancer, DNA damage, damage to the reproductive organs, and brain damage (including memory problems). The petitioners are seeking to have the court remand the matter to the FCC so that it can complete the inquiry into its standards based on current science.

Davis went on to compare the lax regulatory environment to the state of affairs between U.S. administrative agencies and the powerhouse automobile industry until a consumer push—and concurrent litigation—led by Ralph Nader led to a series of meaningful reforms in the 1980s.

“Unlike France and Israel, many Americans are ignorant of the fact that phones are two-way microwave radios that are tested while held inches away from the body. Safety advice is also hidden within operating systems about keeping devices away from the abdomen of pregnant women or children,” Davis said. “Just like cars in the 1970s, we need the equivalent of airbags and seatbelts, that have saved millions of lives, to ensure hardware and software operate at the lowest feasible levels and protect billions of children and others using wireless radiating devices that comply with outmoded standards.”

“The FCC is ignoring the recommendation of our nation’s largest organization of children’s doctors—the American Academy of Pediatrics,” EHT Executive Director Theodora Scarato told Law&Crime—noting that the physician-led group “asked the FCC to test phones the way we use them—in positions against the body—and the FCC said it was unnecessary.”

Law&Crime reached out to the FCC for comment and will update this space if we receive one.
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Source: Law & Crime, Colin Kalmbacher, 04 Feb 2020

The 'race to 5G' is a myth
USA Created: 7 Feb 2020
Telecommunications providers relentlessly extol the power of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology. Government officials and policy advocates fret that the winner of the "5G race" will dominate the internet of the future, so America cannot afford to lose out. Pundits declare that 5G will revolutionize the digital world. It all sounds very thrilling. Unfortunately, the hype has gone too far.
5G systems will, over time, replace today's 4G, just as next year's iPhone 12 will improve on this year's 11. 5G networks offer significantly greater transmission capacity. However, despite all the hype, they won't represent a radical break from the current mobile experience.

First of all, the "race to 5G" is a myth. 5G is a marketing term for a family of technologies, which carriers can stretch to cover a variety of networks. The technical standards are still under development, so what counts as "true" 5G is arguable. As with 4G, the 5G rollout will take years, as carriers upgrade their networks with new gear and users buy new phones. Just as they do today, connections will fall back to slower speeds when users aren't near enough to a tower, or if the network is overloaded. There's no magic moment when a carrier, or a nation, "has" 5G.

Even if there was a race, it's over: South Korea and China have already built much more extensive 5G networks than the United States. But that shouldn't be cause for panic. Customers in those countries may have a leg up on faster connections, but that doesn't necessarily create a sustainable strategic advantage. Romania is one of 10 countries with significantly faster average fixed broadband connections than America today, yet no one in Washington seems concerned that will give Romanian firms a dominant advantage. The major tech platforms delivering innovative digital services to the world are still based in the United States and China. There are important concerns about the Chinese networking firm Huawei creating backdoors for surveillance or tilting the carrier equipment market toward Chinese-defined standards. Your 5G user experience, however, won't depend on who makes the gear in the guts of the network.

The overheated rhetoric is based on the misconception that 5G heralds a new era of services for end-users. In reality, the claimed performance — hundreds of megabits or even gigabits per second — is misleading. Averages and ideal numbers mask huge variations depending on distance to an antenna, obstructions, weather and other factors. The fastest speeds require "millimeter wave" spectrum, which doesn't penetrate walls or foliage well, and is generally less reliable than the lower frequencies used today. Millimeter wave requires a much denser network of antennas, which could be cost-prohibitive outside dense urban areas. Even if that hurdle is overcome, a gigabit per second to millions of phones requires a network able to move traffic at that speed end-to-end, which doesn't exist today.

And just what are the applications that need more capacity than 4G offers? We already get crystal-clear video chats, a torrent of TikToks, Pokemon Go augmented reality, and massive Fortnite battles. Yes, every advance in network performance opened up new uses that seemed insignificant before, but the new capabilities of 5G are best suited to non-consumer applications.
If and when fleets of self-driving vehicles communicate constantly with each other or remote robotic surgery is a standard feature in local hospitals, 5G will be a must. But these next-generation "internet of things" scenarios are years in the future, as are the kinds of virtual and augmented reality worlds that appear in science fiction.

The most immediate use of 5G is "network slicing" to rapidly deploy and reconfigure specialized networks for financial, health care and other applications. Enterprises that need quality of service guarantees can access a virtual "slice" of capacity, rather than building a separate network. It's a big deal for carriers and large companies. Not so sexy for ordinary consumers.

When we look back from 2030, the changes in the digital world will be dramatic. The 5G platform will support those changes, just as 2G, 3G, and 4G wireless did in prior decades. However, the heralded innovations of 2019 to 2021 will seem insignificant.
Enjoy your new 5G phone when it arrives. Just don't expect it to bring you to wireless nirvana.
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Source: CNN Business Perspectives, Kevin Werbach, 03 Feb 2020

First 5G Global Protest: Worldwide News Coverage
USA Created: 28 Jan 2020
Go to the source link below to find links to global media coverage of Stop 5G protests.
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Source: SaferEMR, Joel M. Moskowitz, 27 Jan 2020

Thyroid Cancer, Genetic Variations, and Cell Phones Linked in New Yale School of Public Health Study
USA Created: 20 Jan 2020
Radiation from cell phones is associated with higher rates of thyroid cancer among people with genetic variations in specific genes, a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The researchers examined over 900 people in Connecticut and found that those with certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (genetic variations commonly referred to as SNPs and pronounced as “snips”) were significantly more likely to develop cancer in their thyroid, a gland in the throat that controls metabolism.

Cell phone users with SNPs in four of the genes studied were more than two times likely to develop cancer. The researchers examined a total of 176 genes and identified 10 SNPs that appear to increase the risk of thyroid cancer among cell phone users.

Published in the journal Environmental Research, the study is believed to be the first to examine the combined influence of genetic susceptibility and cell phone use in relation to thyroid cancer.

“Our study provides evidence that genetic susceptibility influences the relationship between cell phone use and thyroid cancer,” said Yawei Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health. “More studies are needed to identify populations who are susceptible to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) and understand exposure to RFR by different using patterns of cell phones.”

Our study provides evidence that genetic susceptibility influences the relationship between cell phone use and thyroid cancer.
- Yawei Zhang

The findings suggest that genetic susceptibilities play an important role in cell phone use and the risk of developing thyroid cancer and could help to identify subgroups who are potentially at risk. Further research is needed to confirm the findings and to better understand the interaction between cell phone radiation and SNPs within specific genes.

The rates of thyroid cancer have been steadily increasing in the United States and in many other parts of the world, Zhang said. According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent report, there were nearly 53,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the United States, resulting in 2,180 deaths. Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women and is diagnosed at a younger age than most other cancers.

Zhang noted that the study relied on data collected from 2010 to 2011 when smartphones were first being introduced to the market. At the time, only a small proportion of people had smart phones. Therefore, if cell phone use increased the risk of thyroid cancer, it was possibly due to the use of earlier generation cell phones that were more commonly used when the data was collected.

Additionally, the transition to smartphones has also seen a major change in how cell phones are used (e.g., texting vs. phone calls). As a result, findings from this current study warrant a further evaluation in future studies, she said.

Other Yale School of Public Health researchers involved in the study include Jiajun Luo, Hang Li, Nicole Deziel, Huang Huang and Shuangge Ma. Researchers from China and Florida also co-authored the study.
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Source: Yale School of Medicine, Sayuri Gavaskar, 17 Jan 2020

NTP Scientists Endorse Precaution
USA Created: 17 Jan 2020
First Federal Officials To Take a Stand on Cell Phone Safety.

Earlier this week an Italian court of appeals in Turin affirmed a decision to compensate a man who charged that he had developed a tumor after using a mobile phone. In its write-up, the U.K. Guardian quoted the Italian health minister saying that the court had made a mistake because there is no proof to support such a link.

Huh? Once again the findings of the $30 million animal study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program showing "clear evidence" of a cancer risk are being ignored —by the Italian minister and the Guardian reporter. The NTP study may not constitute "proof," but it shows that simple denial cannot be justified.

Part of the problem has been with the NTP scientists themselves. They have shown ambivalence about their own findings, allowing others to make up their own narratives.

That has now changed.

NTP scientists have revealed that they are taking precautions to minimize their radiation exposures from cell phones.

Read about this important development in our latest story:
https://microwavenews.com/short-takes-archive/ntp-endorses-precaution

Louis Slesin, PhD
Editor, Microwave News
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Source: Microwave News, Louis Slesin, 17 Jan 2020

Health concerns should slow rollout of 5G wireless: opinion
USA Created: 3 Jan 2020
5G is the new generation of wireless communication, which sounds friendly enough. It is currently being rolled out globally, and includes over 20,000 satellites, and up to a million cell towers with antennas. The FCC — which unfortunately is controlled by the same industries it is supposed to watch — is not requiring the telecom companies to do any safety research whatsoever. Meanwhile literally hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies show that radiation from EMF (3G, 4G, wireless, etc.) contribute to or directly cause cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. 5G will add yet more frequencies of radiation to this electrosmog.

It is so dangerous that Clair Edwards, former UN official, calls this 5G rollout a “crime against humanity.” Martin Pall, a renowned scientist who has researched 5G and wireless radiation exhaustingly, says that “no rational society would do this.” We need to ask: Why is 5G so important? What is the hurry to roll out 5G? Why are we doing this with no safety research? Why are there no mainstream news about the risks and research? What about the data mining and surveillance concerns?

In the U.S., there are currently over 100 lawsuits against the FCC and telecom companies, and globally, 5G concerns are rising, with Belgium being the first country to block 5G. There are very powerful, vested interests with dollar and data mining goals that need to be exposed, so let’s stop this hurried 5G rollout. Please know that we already have a safe solution and alternative: hard-wired fiber optic, ideally locally owned and controlled.

Roy Holman

Everett
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Source: Herald Net, Roy Holman, 01 Jan 2020

California Supreme Court Incommodes Wireless Access to Rights of Way
USA Created: 27 Dec 2019
California Supreme Court held that municipalities may consider aesthetics when granting wireless installation permits.

Amidst the ongoing power struggle between communications service providers striving for unfettered access to rights-of-way to place their facilities, and municipalities working to protect their authority over such rights-of-way, local governments retained a measure of control over the deployment of wireless equipment in their rights-of-way when the California Supreme Court held that municipalities may consider aesthetics when granting wireless installation permits.

T-Mobile (along with other wireless service providers such as NextG Networks and ExteNet Systems), challenged a San Francisco ordinance conditioning access to public rights-of-way on aesthetic considerations. In particular, the City’s ordinance No. 12-11 regulated the construction, installation, and maintenance of wireless equipment in order to prevent the placement of equipment in a manner that would “diminish the City’s beauty,” and required heightened aesthetic review in certain areas.

The companies argued that the ordinance was preempted by the state’s telecommunications franchising statute (California Public Utilities Code Section 7901), which grants telecommunications companies the right to deploy equipment along public rights-of-way in California as long as they do not “incommode” public use. The companies maintained that the term “incommode” referred only to the obstruction of travel, and thus did not permit local aesthetics-based regulation. They also argued that the ordinance violated the nondiscrimination prohibitions of California Public Utilities Code Section 7901.1, which requires local governments to exercise their “time, place, and manner” regulation of road access on “all entities in an equivalent manner.” In particular, they asserted that the ordinance violated the nondiscrimination requirements by applying the aesthetic requirements only to wireless providers, and not to other telecommunications companies accessing the rights-of-way.
Preemption

The California Supreme Court upheld the ordinance, first ruling it was not preempted by Section 7901. In doing so, the Court made clear that the state franchising requirements of Section 7901 and the local police powers held by the City could work in “harmony.”

The Court reasoned that while that Section 7901 prohibits localities from requiring communications providers to obtain a local franchise (which would grant service providers the authority to offer service in a local jurisdiction), the Court ruled that the City nonetheless retained local police power to regulate appropriate land use, including the establishment of aesthetic conditions for such land use. This authority did not amount to the power to require a local franchise, but rather constituted the power to require a permit. While denial of a (prohibited) local franchise would “completely bar” wireless operations within a city, denial of a valid permit “would simply prevent construction of lines in the proposed manner at the proposed location.” The Court also noted that the Public Utilities Commission, the state’s primary regulatory authority over utilities, has a “default policy…of deference to municipalities in matters concerning the design and location of wireless facilities” unless local decisions clearly contradict the Commission’s statewide goals (such as the widespread deployment of high quality and reliable service across the state).

With respect to whether the ordinance’s use of the term “incommode” encompassed aesthetic conditions, the Court stated instead that the more relevant question was whether Section 7901 was intended to divest the City of its inherent power to regulate land use. The Court ruled there was no indication that the state intended Section 7901 to do so, and that without a “clear indication of preemptive intent,” a state statute would not deprive local governments of power in areas over which they have “traditionally exercised control,” such as the “power of controlling location and manner of installation.”

Nevertheless, the Court found the term “incommode” to have a much broader meaning akin to “disturb” or “give inconvenience to,” and not merely referring to the obstruction of travel. Thus, the City’s use of the ordinance to regulate aesthetics was appropriate under Section 7901.
Nondiscrimination

The Court also ruled that the ordinance did not violate Section 7901.1’s nondiscrimination requirements. In doing so, the Court first observed that the City required short-term, temporary permits of all utilities (including both wireline and wireless communications companies) accessing public rights-of-way for the purpose of initial construction and installation of facilities (the process for which did not require the review of aesthetic considerations). The Court also observed that the City required long-term permits for the permanent occupancy of equipment installed in the rights-of-way – a process that did include the review of aesthetic considerations, and only applied to wireless companies (whose facilities tend to remain prominently visible in the rights-of-way after installation).

Looking to the state statute’s legislative history, the Court found that Section 7901.1 was limited to temporary access permits controlling time, place, and manner restrictions (which the parties had all stipulated during trial were applied equally to all companies by the City), and that it was reasonable that a municipality would control the time, place, and manner of initial temporary access to the rights-of-way, while regulating the longer-term permanent impacts that might “incommode” access to the public rights-of-way under Section 7901.
Broader Implications and Limitations

This decision clarified the bounds of local control over wireless facilities deployment in the face of state and federal regulations. Under the ruling, cities may regulate the long-term effects of wireless deployments, and service providers should thus keep in mind that local governments can delay deployments that do not meet aesthetic standards. Further, municipalities may take into account a wide range of considerations beyond aesthetics under the “incommode” language of Section 7901, including noise, public health and safety, and other similar concerns.

The decision may also be of interest to other state franchisees. By confirming that Section 7901.1 applies only to temporary access in public rights-of-way (for the installation of communications facilities), and rooting the power to impose aesthetic regulations in preemption considerations and the broader language of Section 7901, the opinion also has important implications for the application of California’s Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (“DIVCA,” under which video service providers such as cable operators are granted statewide franchises giving them authority to access the state’s rights-of-way and to provide video service). In particular, while DIVCA Section 5840(a) prohibits local entities from requiring state video franchise holders to “obtain a separate franchise or otherwise impose any requirement on any holder of a state franchise except as expressly provided,” DIVCA Section 5885 incorporates Section 7901.1, meaning local authority to impose time, place, and manner restrictions would be limited to temporary access for installation purposes (and not access for the long-term placement of wireless facilities). However, because DIVCA specifically references Section 7901.1, and not Section 7901, state video franchise holders would not be subject to the more extensive “incommode” standards that could be read into Section 7901.

The case is T-Mobile West LLC et al. v. City and County of San Francisco et al., 6 Cal. 5th 1107 (2019).
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Source: National Law Review, W. Ray Rutngamlug, 20 Dec 2019

I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them.
USA Created: 27 Dec 2019
"- a young woman put up her hand and said: “We don’t understand what the books say, sir - We don’t understand the words".

A few years ago, I performed an experiment in a philosophy class I was teaching. My students had failed a midterm test rather badly. I had a hunch that their pervasive use of cell phones and laptops in class was partly responsible. So I asked them what they thought had gone wrong. After a few moments of silence, a young woman put up her hand and said: “We don’t understand what the books say, sir. We don’t understand the words.” I looked around the class and saw guileless heads pensively nodding in agreement.

I extemporized a solution: I offered them extra credit if they would give me their phones for nine days and write about living without them. Twelve students—about a third of the class—took me up on the offer. What they wrote was remarkable, and remarkably consistent. These university students, given the chance to say what they felt, didn’t gracefully submit to the tech industry and its devices.

The usual industry and education narrative about cell phones, social media, and digital technology generally is that they build community, foster communication, and increase efficiency, thus improving our lives. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent reformulation of Facebook’s mission statement is typical: the company aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Without their phones, most of my students initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. That seemed to support the industry narrative: look how disconnected and lonely you’ll be without our technology. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the “real” world. Here is some of what they said.

“You must be weird or something”

“Believe it or not, I had to walk up to a stranger and ask what time it was. It honestly took me a lot of guts and confidence to ask someone,” Janet wrote. (Her name, like the others here, is a pseudonym.) She describes the attitude she was up against: “Why do you need to ask me the time? Everyone has a cell phone. You must be weird or something.” Emily went even further. Simply walking by strangers “in the hallway or when I passed them on the street” caused almost all of them to take out a phone “right before I could gain eye contact with them.”

To these young people, direct, unmediated human contact was experienced as ill-mannered at best and strange at worst. James: “One of the worst and most common things people do nowadays is pull out their cell phone and use it while in a face-to-face conversation. This action is very rude and unacceptable, but yet again, I find myself guilty of this sometimes because it is the norm.” Emily noticed that “a lot of people used their cell phones when they felt they were in an awkward situation, for an example [sic] being at a party while no one was speaking to them.”

The price of this protection from awkward moments is the loss of human relationships, a consequence that almost all the students identified and lamented. Without his phone, James said, he found himself forced to look others in the eye and engage in conversation. Stewart put a moral spin on it. “Being forced to have [real relations with people] obviously made me a better person because each time it happened I learned how to deal with the situation better, other than sticking my face in a phone.” Ten of the 12 students said their phones were compromising their ability to have such relationships.

Virtually all the students admitted that ease of communication was one of the genuine benefits of their phones. However, eight out of 12 said they were genuinely relieved not to have to answer the usual flood of texts and social-media posts. Peter: “I have to admit, it was pretty nice without the phone all week. Didn’t have to hear the fucking thing ring or vibrate once, and didn’t feel bad not answering phone calls because there were none to ignore.”

Indeed, the language they used indicated that they experienced this activity almost as a type of harassment. “It felt so free without one and it was nice knowing no one could bother me when I didn’t want to be bothered,” wrote William. Emily said that she found herself “sleeping more peacefully after the first two nights of attempting to sleep right away when the lights got shut off.” Several students went further and claimed that communication with others was in fact easier and more efficient without their phones. Stewart: “Actually I got things done much quicker without the cell because instead of waiting for a response from someone (that you don’t even know if they read your message or not) you just called them [from a land line], either got an answer or didn’t, and moved on to the next thing.”

Technologists assert that their instruments make us more productive. But for the students, phones had the opposite effect. “Writing a paper and not having a phone boosted productivity at least twice as much,” Elliott claimed. “You are concentrated on one task and not worrying about anything else. Studying for a test was much easier as well because I was not distracted by the phone at all.” Stewart found he could “sit down and actually focus on writing a paper.” He added, “Because I was able to give it 100% of my attention, not only was the final product better than it would have been, I was also able to complete it much quicker.” Even Janet, who missed her phone more than most, admitted, “One positive thing that came out of not having a cell phone was that I found myself more productive and I was more apt to pay attention in class.”

Some students felt not only distracted by their phones, but morally compromised. Kate: “Having a cell phone has actually affected my personal code of morals and this scares me … I regret to admit that I have texted in class this year, something I swore to myself in high school that I would never do … I am disappointed in myself now that I see how much I have come to depend on technology … I start to wonder if it has affected who I am as a person, and then I remember that it already has.” And James, though he says we must continue to develop our technology, said that “what many people forget is that it is vital for us not to lose our fundamental values along the way.”

Other students were worried that their cell-phone addiction was depriving them of a relationship to the world. Listen to James: “It is almost like the earth stood still and I actually looked around and cared about current events ... This experiment has made many things clear to me and one thing is for sure, I am going to cut back the time I am on my cell phone substantially.”

Stewart said he began to see how things “really work” once he was without his phone: “One big thing I picked up on while doing this assignment is how much more engaged I was in the world around me … I noticed that the majority of people were disengaged … There is all this potential for conversation, interaction, and learning from one another but we’re too distracted by the screens … to partake in the real events around us.”
In parentis, loco

Some parents were pleased with their children’s phone-less selves. James said his mother “thought it was great that I did not have my phone because I paid more attention to her while she was talking.” One parent even proposed to join in the experiment.

But for some of the students, phones were a lifeline to their parents. As Karen Fingerman of the University of Texas at Austin wrote in a 2017 article in the journal Innovation in Aging, in the mid to late 20th century, “only half of [American] parents reported contact with a grown child at least once a week.” By contrast, she writes, recent studies find that “nearly all” parents of young adults were in weekly contact with their children, and over half were in daily contact by phone, by text message, or in person.

Emily wrote that without her cell phone, “I felt like I was craving some interaction from a family member. Either to keep my ass in line with the upcoming exams, or to simply let me know someone is supporting me.” Janet admitted, “The most difficult thing was defiantly [sic] not being able to talk to my mom or being able to communicate with anyone on demand or at that present moment. It was extremely stressful for my mom.”

Safety was also a recurrent theme. Janet said, “Having a cell phone makes me feel secure in a way. So having that taken away from me changed my life a little. I was scared that something serious might happen during the week of not having a cell phone.” And she wondered what would have happened “if someone were to attack me or kidnap me or some sort of action along those lines or maybe even if I witnessed a crime take place, or I needed to call an ambulance.”

What’s revealing is that this student and others perceived the world to be a very dangerous place. Cell phones were seen as necessary to combat that danger. The city in which these students lived has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and almost no violent crime of any kind, yet they experienced a pervasive, undefined fear.
Live in fragments no longer

My students’ experience of cell phones and the social-media platforms they support may not be exhaustive, or statistically representative. But it is clear that these gadgets made them feel less alive, less connected to other people and to the world, and less productive. They also made many tasks more difficult and encouraged students to act in ways they considered unworthy of themselves. In other words, phones didn’t help them. They harmed them.

I first carried out this exercise in 2014. I repeated it last year in the bigger, more urban institution where I now teach. The occasion this time wasn’t a failed test; it was my despair over the classroom experience in its entirety. I want to be clear here—this is not personal. I have a real fondness for my students as people. But they’re abysmal students; or rather, they aren’t really students at all, at least not in my class. On any given day, 70% of them are sitting before me shopping, texting, completing assignments, watching videos, or otherwise occupying themselves. Even the “good” students do this. No one’s even trying to conceal the activity, the way students did before. This is just what they do.

What’s changed? Most of what they wrote in the assignment echoed the papers I’d received in 2014. The phones were compromising their relationships, cutting them off from real things, and distracting them from more important matters. But there were two notable differences. First, for these students, even the simplest activities—getting on the bus or train, ordering dinner, getting up in the morning, even knowing where they were—required their cell phones. As the phone grew more ubiquitous in their lives, their fear of being without it seemed to grow apace. They were jittery, lost, without them.

This may help to explain the second difference: compared with the first batch, this second group displayed a fatalism about phones. Tina’s concluding remarks described it well: “Without cell phones life would be simple and real but we may not be able to cope with the world and our society. After a few days I felt alright without the phone as I got used to it. But I guess it is only fine if it is for a short period of time. One cannot hope to compete efficiently in life without a convenient source of communication that is our phones.” Compare this admission with the reaction of Peter, who a few months after the course in 2014 tossed his smartphone into a river.

I think my students are being entirely rational when they “distract” themselves in my class with their phones. They understand the world they are being prepared to enter much better than I do. In that world, I’m the distraction, not their phones or their social-media profiles or their networking. Yet for what I’m supposed to be doing—educating and cultivating young hearts and minds—the consequences are pretty dark.

Paula was about 28, a little older than most students in the class. She’d returned to college with a real desire to learn after working for almost a decade following high school. I’ll never forget the morning she gave a presentation to a class that was even more alternatively engaged than usual. After it was all over, she looked at me in despair and said, simply: “How in the world do you do this?”
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Source: Technology Review, Ron Srigley, 26 Dec 2019

How Your Phone Betrays Democracy
USA Created: 22 Dec 2019
In footage from drones hovering above, the nighttime streets of Hong Kong look almost incandescent, a constellation of tens of thousands of cellphone flashlights, swaying in unison. Each twinkle is a marker of attendance and a plea for freedom. The demonstrators, some clad in masks to thwart the government’s network of facial recognition cameras, find safety in numbers.

But in addition to the bright lights, each phone is also emitting another beacon in the darkness — one that’s invisible to the human eye. This signal is captured and collected, sometimes many times per minute, not by a drone but by smartphone apps. The signal keeps broadcasting, long after the protesters turn off their camera lights, head to their homes and take off their masks.

In the United States, and across the world, any protester who brings a phone to a public demonstration is tracked and that person’s presence at the event is duly recorded in commercial datasets. At the same time, political parties are beginning to collect and purchase phone location for voter persuasion.

“Without question it’s sinister,” said Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism at Columbia University and former president of Students for a Democratic Society, a prominent activist group in the 1960s. “It will chill certain constitutionally permitted expressions. If people know they’ll be tracked, it will certainly make them think twice before linking themselves to a movement.”

A trove of location data with more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans obtained by Times Opinion helps to illustrate the risks that such comprehensive monitoring poses to the right of Americans to assemble and participate in a healthy democracy.

Within minutes, with no special training and a little bit of Google searching, Times Opinion was able to single out and identify individuals at public demonstrations large and small from coast to coast.

By tracking specific devices, we followed demonstrators from the 2017 Women’s March back to their homes. We were able to identify individuals at the 2017 Inauguration Day Black Bloc protests. It was easy to follow them to their workplaces. In some instances — for example, a February clash between antifascists and far-right supporters of Milo Yiannopolous in Berkeley, Calif. — it took little effort to identify the homes of protesters and then their family members.

The anonymity of demonstrators has long been a contentious issue. Governments generally don’t like the idea for fear that masked protesters might be more likely to incite riots. Several states, including New York and Georgia, have laws that prohibit wearing masks at public demonstrations. Countries including Canada and Spain have rules to limit or prohibit masks at riots or unlawful gatherings. But in the smartphone era — masked or not — no one can get lost in a sea of faces anymore.

Imagine the following nightmare scenarios: Governments using location data to identify political enemies at major protests. Prosecutors or the police using location information to intimidate criminal defendants into taking plea deals. A rogue employee at an ad-tech location company sharing raw data with a politically motivated group. A megadonor purchasing a location company to help bolster political targeting abilities for his party and using the information to dox protesters. A white supremacist group breaching the insecure servers of a small location startup and learning the home addresses of potential targets.

Lokman Tsui, an activist, researcher and professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told us that third parties that sell this data are a problem because “the standards to buy this information aren’t that rigorous — it’s not like the companies have ethical review boards. The university I’m at is able to buy data, and it’s fairly easy to get it. And the kind of data they can buy makes me raise my eyebrows, ‘Oh, wow, you can buy that?’ Creepy data.”

The data doesn’t even need to leak or transfer hands — its mere existence can have a chilling effect on democratic participation. Word has already spread through the more professional protester circles to leave cellphones at home, toggle them to airplane mode or simply power them off. Many antifascist protesters show up to rallies covering their faces to protect their identities from hate groups, the police and the press. “But that means you’re only getting the diehards to show.... We tell people don’t bring your phone to protests or if you do, keep GPS off at the very least… The more secure you are the less able you are to organize,” an antifascist researcher told us. He agreed to be quoted only if we did not reveal his name.

Joshua Wong, the activist who helped drive Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement and is now a key figure in the city’s continuing protests, said that omnipresent tracking has fundamentally changed the democratic protests in Hong Kong. “In the past, they feel like, if they are not activists or high-profile figures, they are safe from surveillance as they have nothing to hide,” he said. “But they have come to realize recently that surveillance poses a threat to them as more are involved in the protest, and even if they are not high-profile, the government would also target them.”

Even those we identified in the data who were public about their activism were unnerved by their movements’ getting catalogued in databases that can be bought, sold, merged or hacked.

“Personally, I’m happy to protest Trump and have people knowing about it,” said Eric Hensal, who lives in Takoma Park, Md., and appeared in the dataset at a 2016 picket line protest at the Trump Hotel in Washington. “But there’s so much somebody, say, a state actor could determine just by a travel pattern. It’s honestly frightening.”

Granular surveillance is still new. But some experts argue the window to define our cultural values around tracking citizens may be closing. Mr. Tsui, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, argued that there are three current competing visions for the internet built by China, the United States and the European Union. China is moving fast and breaking things, including civil rights. The E.U., with its focus on privacy, is making a moral point around surveillance and consent. And the United States, with its powerful tech companies, is caught in the middle, trying to weigh ethical concerns while still pushing forward on innovation for fear of being left behind by China. If China pushes forward, skirting human rights via technology, and the United States follows, Mr. Tsui argued that America could see an uptick in using surveillance, data and artificial intelligence to manipulate and change behavior and direct outcomes. “I hope we don’t end up there,” he said.

Location data is already part of the 2020 race for the White House. Political action committees for Republicans and Democrats have invested in location data to target voters based on their interest. For example, companies are enlisting data brokers to help monitor the movements of churchgoers to find conservative-leaning voters and sway their votes.

In company documents from 2017, Phunware, a Texas-based technology company, describes the race to collect location data to target voters as a “gold rush,” suggesting that “as soon as the first few political campaigns realize the value of mobile ad targeting for voter engagement, the floodgates will open. Which campaigns will get there first and strike it rich?”

The company reportedly signed a deal with American Made Media Consultants, a company set up by the Trump campaign manager, Brad Parscale, to offer location collection services. Phunware touts voters’ smartphones as “the ultimate voter file.” Its marketing claims that mobile data can tell campaigns “everything from the device operating system (iOS or Android) to what other apps are on the device, what Wi-Fi networks the device joins and much more. And that doesn’t even cover the information it’s possible to infer, such as gender, age, lifestyle preferences and so on.”

These are, of course, just the early days. Much of the political manipulation happening now looks no different from serving up a standard political ad at the right moment. The future, however, could get dark quickly. Political candidates rich in location data could combine it with financial information and other personally identifiable details to build deep psychographic profiles designed to manipulate and push voters in unseen directions. Would-be autocrats or despots could leverage this information to misinform or divide voters and keep political enemies from showing up to the polls on election day.

Then, once in power, they could leverage their troves of data to intimidate activists and squash protests. Those brave enough to rebel might be tracked and followed to their homes. At the very least, their names could be put into registries.

Public dissent could quickly become too risky a proposition, given that the record of one’s attendance at a rally could be held against them at a later date. Big Data, once the domain of marketers, could become a means to elevate dictators to power and then frustrate attempts to remove them.

It is not difficult, in other words, to imagine a system of social control arising from infrastructure built for advertising. That’s why regulation is critical. “It is very clear from the examples of the intersection of authoritarianism and surveillance that we’ve seen around the world that a privacy bill of rights is absolutely necessary,” said Edward Markey, the Massachusetts senator who wrote the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. “Privacy needs to start being seen as a human right.”

Carlo Ratti, a professor at M.I.T. and director of its Senseable City Lab, echoed the senator’s concerns. “The present path is untenable,” he told us. “If you have asymmetrical control of information, it is very dangerous. Whether it’s companies or states, they can crush political opponents before they can band together. If we go this route, it is very dangerous and very volatile.”

If Hong Kong has taught the world anything, it is that surveillance systems, once in place, are nearly impossible to uproot.

“I think Hong Kong citizens are worried that they are retroactively surveilled,” Mr. Wong, the activist, said. “As there are more reports revealing the effort and attempts of Beijing in monitoring its people, Hong Kong-ers are worried that they have been subjected to the same treatment.”

Over time, protest could become the exclusive right of those with the means to safeguard themselves technologically, including having a second, “burner” phone. “It’s technologically possible to be anonymous, but it’s hard,” Mr. Tsui told us. “You can only protect privacy with tech right now, and so only those who have money and knowledge can do it. But privacy is not just for the rich or geeks. Privacy is for everyone.”

Even in non-authoritarian countries, the future of unfettered mobile surveillance seems likely to force dissenters into difficult decisions. “The way I see it, there’s two directions this could all go. It could force people to embrace the danger of full exposure,” the antifascist researcher and protester said. “Or things go way underground. And things continue to heat up. It forces governments and other organizations to get more and more militant toward each other.”

The future for the world’s activists may look increasingly like Hong Kong. The leaderless protest movement of the past six months has been made possible by technology. The messageboard LIHKG and encrypted chat apps like Telegram have allowed for the kind of organization that has kept the protests going. But the movement has also been undermined by the very same technology. Protesters and journalists and even law enforcement have been doxxed (had their private information published) by the thousands. A real-time location tracking app used by protesters to identify the positions of law enforcement was taken down by Apple’s App Store — suggesting that governments will have a competitive advantage when it comes to the resource.

And while protesters have rebelled by wearing masks, blocking government cameras with lasers and even tearing down lampposts they suspected were outfitted with beacons and surveillance equipment, their efforts are being quietly undermined by the spies in their pockets. Like the rest of us, they are only as secure as the least secure apps on their phones.

The hundreds of thousands of phones that light up the sky in places like Hong Kong are the expression of peaceful opposition to authority. But the inspiring images and the democratic spirit the glittering devices represent only work if the lights are eventually able to vanish.
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Source: New York Times, Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, 21 DEc 2019

City tries to steer wireless antennas away from neighborhoods, schools
USA Created: 20 Dec 2019
New rules in Palo Alto would require telecoms to get exceptions before they can encroach on residential areas.

Palo Alto took its most dramatic action to date to curtail the proliferation of wireless antennas on street poles on Monday night, when the City Council agreed to restrict such equipment in residential neighborhoods.

The new rules aim to alleviate the anxieties of residents who have been arguing for years that the telecommunication equipment causes health, aesthetic and noise impacts. They aim to steer the equipment away from residential zones and toward commercial ones. They also attempt to strike a delicate balance: addressing the anxieties of residents without inviting lawsuits from telecommunication companies.

In the end, neither side was fully satisfied. Dozens of residents submitted letters to the council on Monday to request tougher measures. At the same time, representatives of Verizon and Crown Castle argued in separate briefs that the standards proposed by staff are overly restrictive and illegal.

The council, for its part, acknowledged that the process of adopting standards for wireless equipment remains a work in progress and that the new rules will likely see further changes. By a 6-1 vote, the council agreed that wireless communication facilities should be placed in non-residential districts unless the council grants an exception. The only dissenter was Vice Mayor Adrian Fine, who fully backed the proposed standards but did not support the additions that the rest of his colleagues adopted, including directions to staff to further study the noise impacts of wireless equipment, consider the feasibility of requiring underground vaults for antennas in residential areas and explore proposing a state bill pertaining to wireless equipment.

In addition to giving a preference to equipment in non-residential areas, the newly adopted standards specify that near public schools, wireless equipment should be placed no closer than 600 feet, up from the current standard of 300 feet (an applicant may request an exception to be within 300 feet, but no closer). They also state the city's preference for placing equipment into underground vaults rather than mounting them on poles. And they establish a 20-foot setback from buildings in all zoning districts with no exception.

The discussion comes at a time when the city is seeing a huge influx of applications from wireless companies, with more than 100 antennas recently winning approval in both commercial and residential districts. Planning Director Jonathan Lait told the council that the proposed standards try to "clearly articulate the city's interest to locate wireless communication facilities in the commercial and industrial areas and outside the residential areas."

But for many residents, the 20-foot setback doesn't go nearly far enough. Dozens submitted nearly identical letters arguing that the 20-foot rule "opens the door for the telecom industry to put their ugly, noisy, and potentially hazardous equipment right next to our homes."

Many, including Tina Chow, requested a more meaningful setback. Chow, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, recommended adopting a 100-foot setback requirement, with no exception.

"Otherwise, the whole resolution with objective standards can be sidestepped by wireless companies simply asking for exceptions and having them granted," Chow wrote to the council.

Jeanne Fleming, who is one of the leaders of the effort to oppose new wireless antennas, argued that the city should not provide exceptions to service providers seeking to install equipment in residential zones.

"A setback of 20 feet is an invitation to telecom companies to seek exceptions and they'll place their cell towers wherever they want to," Fleming said.

While many pushed for a 100-foot setback, Lait argued that such a standard would make almost all streetlights and utility poles in residential areas ineligible and put the city in a legally tricky position. The Federal Communications Commission limits local control over communication equipment. In September 2018, the FCC declared in an order that local aesthetic regulations "must be reasonable, objective, non-discriminatory and published in advance" (the order is now being challenged in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals).

Several representatives of telecommunication companies argued that the new rules fall afoul of the federal standards. Paul Albritton, who is representing Verizon, submitted a letter arguing that the proposed standards are both ill-advised and illegal. Rather than prohibiting antennas in residential zones, the city should state its preference for commercial, office and manufacturing zones but still allow a "less-preferred location" if there is no preferred alternative nearby that is available and technically feasible.

"The various location restrictions imposed by the Draft Standards would prohibit small cells in broad areas of Palo Alto," Albritton wrote. "The option for an exception to some restrictions does not excuse such unlawful prohibition. Instead, the City should adopt reasonable, location preferences."

The proposed law, Albritton argued, violates FCC's prohibition on restrictions that "materially inhibit" the ability of telecommunication companies to enhance services.

"With facilities permitted in only non-residential zones, a small cell in a residential zone would require an exception, as would facilities within 300 to 600 feet of schools. ... The city cannot rely on the exception process to excuse such prohibitive restrictions because it requires applicants to satisfy a vague, quasi-judicial finding that federal and/or state law compel approval."

Michael Shonafelt, an attorney with the firm Newmeyer Dillion, similarly urged the council not to approve the restrictions, which he argued illegally impede the right of wireless companies to use public rights of way. Shonafelt, who is representing Crown Castle, likened the proposed restriction to "discriminatory treatment."

"The resolution singles out wireless telecommunication carriers and infrastructure developers, prescribing onerous aesthetic and engineering restrictions that do not apply to other utilities in the right of way," Shonafelt wrote.

While the council felt comfortable adopting the regulations, despite these objections, City Attorney Molly Stump warned the council not to adopt the broader restrictions proposed by some residents, including an outright ban on wireless communication equipment in residential areas with no exceptions.

"A rule like that would almost certainly be held to be an effective prohibition of wireless services in a large part of our community," Stump said.

As such, it would be subject to a legal challenge, either targeting the ordinance itself or as part of an application for a wireless communication facility, she said.

In declaring commercial areas as a preference for new antennas, city staff pointed to the fact that expressways and major arterials offer larger right of way dimensions and, as such, offer greater opportunities to screen or otherwise conceal a proposed wireless communication facility, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Development Services. Companies requesting exceptions to install equipment in residential areas would need to demonstrate the infeasibility of doing so in commercial districts.

While the new rules limit the abilities of telecoms to mount equipment near schools, they don't go nearly as far as some in the Palo Alto school district had hoped. Todd Collins, president of the Board of Education, cited a resolution that the board passed June calling for a setback of 1,500 feet from schools and requesting that school principals and the district be notified of any applications near school sites.

"I'm not sure what the logic is for the much smaller setbacks," Collins wrote to the council. "There is no value to placing cell towers near schools sites. PAUSD has a total of only 16 school sites in the City of Palo Alto — wireless carriers should be able to give them a wide berth, and still achieve other objectives."

But the council agreed that the standards drafted by staff, while imperfect, represent a major step forward. Councilman Tom DuBois called them "a big improvement" while Mayor Eric Filseth credited staff with "an artful construction that encourages cellphone companies with a combination of carrots and sticks ... not to put these things in residential neighborhoods without strictly excluding the possibility that if they did a bunch of work, they might be able to."

While the city isn't outright banning wireless equipment in residential areas, a move that would likely launch a lawsuit, the city is trying to make telecom companies say, "Do I really want to fight that battle in the residential neighborhood? I'll just stick to the commercial neighborhoods," Filseth said.

"But if we put an outright ban on residential neighborhoods, they can say, 'We can beat that in court in a week so let's do it,'" Filseth said.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Palo Alto Weekly, Gennady Sheyner, 17 Dec 2019

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