On a typical day, the average person checks their phone 85 times. In total, we spend about 5 hours on our phones each day. Here we explore the fine line between normal phone use and device addiction.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is set to introduce a new Senate bill which would curb the ability of the government and NSA to collect phone and internet data in bulk and increase transparency of such government programs.
“If enacted,” said Leahy according to Reuters, “this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago.”
The bill is already being supported by the White House and is reportedly more aggressive than a similar bill passed in May.
The May bill was significantly altered before being heard on the Senate floor, and it has been argued the changes could allow government agents to search a broad scope of records, such as by ZIP code, to pull up data. Sen. Leahy’s bill would prevent broad searches and require agents to use very specific terms in order to search records.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in an email sent Monday, “Chairman Leahy has done remarkable work reflecting the equities of intelligence professionals while crafting privacy enhancements, and these efforts have yielded significant progress on issues vital to those stakeholders.”
The Hill also reports the bill would require the agencies to give “the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive.”
Leahy’s bill would also create a panel of special civil liberties advocates and assign them to oversee secretive court intelligence operations, where the advocates would represent the public when the court makes a ruling.
While this is a big step in what many privacy advocates consider the right direction, Leahy said there was still a lot of work to do even if the bill passed. “I’d like to get most of what we need,” said Leahy, “then work on the rest.”
The Transportation Security Administration has announced a new set of airline security policies that could complicate Americans’ international travel plans. According to the TSA’s press release, “As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”
The Washington Post is reporting that this new screening procedure will be conducted at airports overseas with direct flights to the United States. The rule change is being justified as a response to as-yet unverified rumors that Yemeni or Syrian terrorists equipped with US passports are planning to hijack an airliner. TSA officials believe that this threat could come in the form of a bomb built to look like a non-functioning laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Officials in the United Kingdom have also announced an increase in airline security measures.
The Transportation Security Administration indicated that it would be focusing on smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy and Apple’s iPhone. Also, officials announced that travelers’ shoes would be subject to closer-than-usual examinations.
However, this new policy regarding electronics could put Americans traveling internationally in a bind if they fail to maintain a charge on all of their devices. Under the erratic conditions of travel that one might experience on vacation overseas, it can be tough to keep a constant charge on laptops and cell phones, which are expensive, big-ticket items. Any device that can not be powered on during the pre-flight security examination will be banned from the flight, possibly forcing travelers to leave behind their most valuable electronic devices, some of which contain irreplaceable files and data. Also, individuals in possession of non-functioning or uncharged electronic devices will be singled out for further security screening.
Some individuals might find that a laptop or other electronic device fails while on an overseas trip. If the dead device were under warranty and the owner wanted to take it home to the US to claim a replacement, this new TSA policy could have harsh consequences. Also, if an electronic device experienced a malfunction overseas while containing important business documents, the individual possessing it would not be able to carry it onboard a flight to bring it back to the US to be worked on by a data recovery specialist.
The TSA has yet to mention the length of time this policy will be in effect, so Americans planning to travel overseas in the near future should make sure to have all electronic devices fully charged and operational prior to boarding flights and should expect delays, as passengers may be required to boot up all of their laptops and cellphones during the pre-flight security check.