Category Archives: News

Political Backlash Ramps Up Digital Privacy Laws

The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but tech ramifications sometimes turn around on a shorter timetable. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 overruling of its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision—alongside subsequent state-level prosecutions for abortions—provoked a proprivacy backlash now wending its way through administrations and legislatures. At the same time, though, there may be a catch. Between industry lobbying and legislative mistakes, some of the proposed or recent rules may leave room for data brokers to still profit and for buyers to still continue obtaining people’s locations without explicit consent.

At the moment, unlike in the early 1970s when the previous Supreme Court precedent was set, broad-sweeping digital tool kits are widely available. In states tightening their abortion laws and seeking to prosecute women seeking or obtaining abortions in defiance of those laws, prosecutors have access to mobile-phone location histories—currently available on the open market throughout the United States.

“I think there is increased anxiety that is being spurred in part by the overruling of Roe v. Wade,” says Alex Marthews, national chair of Restore the Fourth, a civil-society organization in Boston. “There is anxiety about residents’ browser and location information being subject to information requests in states that have essentially outlawed abortion,” he says.

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Heat Pumps—the Well-Tempered Future of A/Cs

During heat waves in Phoenix, while some people fry eggs on sidewalks, Matt Heath, a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) service manager at AC by J, is on the front line, helping maintain air conditioners in people’s homes. Heath has great job security: Half of Phoenix residents are at risk of an emergency-room visit or worse if their electricity fails during a future heat wave, according to a recent study. Air-conditioning is what keeps people there comfortable—and alive—a growing fraction of the year. The extreme heat already kills hundreds of Phoenix-area residents every year, a number that went up by 25 percent from 2021 to 2022.

Phoenix is a harbinger of life in the many hot parts of the world that are getting richer, where people are demanding ever more air conditioners. This in turn exacerbates the extremes of climate change due to increased demand for fossil-fuel-intensive sources of electricity, as well as leakage of refrigerants, themselves noteworthy greenhouse gases. “Most of the growth of air-conditioning will be in other countries,” says mechanical engineer Vince Romanin, cofounder and CEO of the San Francisco–based Gradient Comfort, “and restricting access is not fair.” Instead, he and others are trying to invent new climate-control technology that doesn’t further increase the dangers facing the planet’s climate.

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Racism: The shame of Spain

In Madrid, a few years ago, two teams of kids were playing football. A young boy scored a goal and set off in celebration, but then something odd happened – the opposing team’s managers asked the referee to stop the game. The boy, they argued, was too old to be on the pitch.

Dolores Galindo, the president of the Dragones de Lavapiés football club, was there. Lavapiés is one of Madrid’s melting-pot neighbourhoods, and it was one of her players who scored the goal. The boy wasn’t too old, she says. He was entitled to play. But on the other hand, she says, he did have darker skin.

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Apple Kicks Off the Cell-Calls-From-Space Race

The race to deliver cellular calls from space passes two milestones this month and saw one major announcement last month. First, Apple will offer emergency satellite messaging on two of its latest iPhone models, the company announced on Wednesday. Second, AST SpaceMobile plans a launch on Saturday, 10 September, of an experimental satellite to test full-fledged satellite 5G service. In addition, T-Mobile USA and SpaceX intend to offer their own messaging and limited data service via the second generation of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, as the two companies announced on 25 August

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