Do Not Call Registry Ineffective

Have you ever received a telephone call from an unknown number? Of course, this is typical, and in most cases, we don’t answer the call. But what if you receive a telephone call from perhaps a legitimate number and person only to discover that the caller ID information is inaccurate. This type of inaccuracy of information is provided by what is termed as “spoofing.” When I think of the recent fake news reporting, I also think of letters in the mail pretending to be legitimate businesses and telephone spoofing. It is so out of control that this is perhaps one key reason that texting has outpaced the traditional phone call.

Spoofing has been going on for over a decade, and it seems far from the problem going away. What makes spoofing a problem is that such technology makes the national Do Not Call Registry ineffective. If you receive a telephone call from a spoofing number but turns out to be a telemarketer from a call center in India then reporting that information only pings the number used; not the number actually being called from.

Who is to blame? The primary responsibility is software distributors that sell programs with the intention to defraud legitimacy. However, software publishers will always use the “for entertainment use only” caption to remove it from liabilities. This is nonsense, and federal or national law enforcement agencies should be ashamed to allow this to continue. The next blame assessment is the telephony providers themselves. These are the same companies that charge a fee to consumers for caller ID services, blocking services, and anonymous rejection plans. Even if you pay for the premium telephone feature, you are not getting what you paid for because spoofing overrides all those features. Phone providers seem only interested in profitability versus public safety or credibility. Businesses are just as much to blame because they lay claim that telephone information won’t be used for telemarketing purposes. Yeah, right.

Lastly, Congress is to blame. They are the very body of government that introduced the Do Not Call Registry but placed a caveat in the law that won’t allow political calls to be blocked. Therefore just before and after an election, the telemarketing calls flow because political groups do not discard the telephone listings correctly. Just think about the Democratic National Convention hacked records. How many phone numbers do you say were released back into the calling pattern to hinder further the effectiveness of the Do Not Call Registry? I am willing to bet a significant amount.

Data security and telephony information is in my opinion at a critical stage. Our smartphones and telephone services are an important infrastructure and a source of our daily requirements. Phone providers must do more to help not only businesses but consumers of the credibility of the services we buy. Federal agencies must do more to combat fraudulent spoofing and impersonation. Congress should do its part by removing its clause from existing law to help protect its constituents.

Smartphone Etiquette 

This morning I had a dentist appointment. Typically the waiting room area is silent and calming. Not today. A man decided he not only wanted to watch a Facebook video but thought the entire waiting room should hear it too. The room appeared visually upset at the full volume broadcast. A woman politely asked the man to please lower the volume. What happened next was a shock when he abruptly replied with “fuck you!”   Clearly, diplomacy wasn’t going to work, and civility may be on its deathbed.

I remember a time where there was common sense mobile etiquette in addition to civility in public settings. I am unsure where our manners have gone but have we become a society with a sole purpose of contempt of humanity? It is bad enough sitting at home watching television or attempting to sleep when all of a sudden it feels as if I’m experiencing a minor earthquake. What is actually occurring is some motorist with an in-car speaker system passing by so loudly that the windows and picture frames rattle. Needless to say, it is unnerving and a bit rude on the part of those with powerful vehicle stereo systems. It’s useless to yell to turn down the volume because they could never hear you anyway.  Again, common courtesy is discharged because of abuses within freedoms of speech and expression.

I try very hard to show empathy by putting myself in the shoes of others. It is true that sometimes we need some space to let off some steam or get away from drama or whatever is bothering us. But do we need to make so much noise pretending that our personal space is unlimited? Our society enjoys honesty yet is the very culture that won’t say anything to avoid confrontation. Thus why we rarely speak our minds in public and build a reserve of accumulated prejudices from poor experiences of others. Perhaps this is a reason we have a bad race and religious relations in the United States. I am starting to notice the trend of once calm filters become untangled shifting to informal and dramatic decorum in the worst possible way. The bottom line is that I see an increasing amount of hostility and lack of courtesy between one another. This issue highly extends to those that use smartphones in public. It is fair to say that we should be mindful that not everyone wants to hear the latest YouTube funny video in a quiet public setting. Additionally, we are not interested in having to listen to your personal telephone call with colorful graphic details. Finally, I don’t want to ever hear a phone call in the bathroom. It’s creepy enough hearing the person in the next stall straining a possible Taco Bell moment. A fully-fledged conversation is not helping.

How do I know cell phone etiquette is on life support? Go to a movie theater today and try to watch a film from start to finish without hearing a cell phone beep or ring. There is a huge production infomercial to warn people about talking and to silence devices, yet the problem seems to be ignored and growing exponentially. Even if people complain about an unsilenced phone, typically you will hear an occasional “fuck you” in reply from the culprit. It is one thing to accidentally forget to silence a phone but completely another to be belligerent in the matter. At least have the common courtesy to respect your neighbor and adhere to good smartphone etiquette.

My Amazon Echo is my Alibi?

I could not resist mentioning the recent case involving the Amazon device known as “Echo.” I admit that I have one of these devices. When I heard that an Echo device was being subpoenaed to court because it may have listening data I knew that this story would grow into all sorts of hype. While I understand that police in this particular incident want to comb over every inch of potential evidence, I think we may be opening looking into a Pandora’s Box that may have ramifications.

It was last year a murder case in California had Apple and its iPhone applications at the center of controversy. There was much legal wrangling over consumer data, texts, and other meta information. But what was the most interesting part that differs versus the case of Amazon is that the government wanted to hack into the iPhone. There are currently features such as Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and countless other devices that seek voice recognition to wake the device. I fear that our home may inadvertently become a crime scene in waiting if we do not stop the overreach of particular law practices and standards.

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I can remember a time where law enforcement tools have evolved from wanted posters to police radio, patrol cars and social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Community policing today has also expanded through social networking to locate missing children, alert neighbors of suspicious activity, and even inform the public about crimes committed in their neighborhoods. But it seems that police and other law enforcement organizations are migrating its way into our kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. I have nothing to hide. However, I do revere in a bit of personal privacy. The art of secrecy or personal privacy has slowly succumbed its deathbed. Our computer, smartphone, Echo device, automated garage door opener, car and almost anything with a way of connectivity can tell on us. Most disturbing is if there is a time management flaw in the code because that could be the powerful indictment within the law they look for. What can you do to protect yourself from your own devices?

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At one time I was worried about hackers with accessibility to my home security camera, laptop, iPhone and other electronic devices. That later shifted towards foreign governments hacking into my network to do harm to our nation. Within months that seems to have slipped into me being a bit concerned that my own devices are watching me because the police have a suspicion. Folks, all this can be done without much of a warrant. In no way am I eluding that Edward Snowden was correct in his assessment of big brother? But what he shared has had a greater significance on a plausible concern that we no longer have rights to reasonable privacy. If this was a traffic camera where I am behind the wheel near a crime scene, then I can accept that. Hopefully, my alibi would be a credible witness either that saw me or was with me. But I find it difficult for me to grasp that my future alibi may be my Amazon Echo device. That alone is a scary scenario with multitudes of problems written all over it.

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I am an advocate of free will. I do my best to protect animals by working in shelters. I hopefully write witty blogs about the concerns that I see most of you talk about but find little room to do anything about. I embrace technology, pay my taxes, go to school, work hard and have wonderful friends. One thing I will say is that I own my electronic devices. They shouldn’t be considered mature enough to exhibit free will. This means that they are not of legal age, at least of maturity to do human-like things on its own. Therefore I do not consent my electronic devices to exhibit free will or testify on my behalf. That should be where we are today with certain meta or data issues. It is too infantile and too scattered to properly become a reliable alibi for anyone or anything. I don’t want to hinder police from an effective investigation. But we must place a fair and reasonable balance between people and the reach of the law. We may live in America. But with actions like the Amazon Echo warrant, it is beginning to look more like the Soviet Union each and every passing moment. What kind of liberty is that?

I’m Trading My Life for a Flip Phone

When I was growing up and introduced to the internet age my life was a bit simple. All I had was a LAN line with call waiting and a Zoom modem box. Connectivity was to a service once called CompuServ where I had to pay an additional $10 a month to access email, the web, and browser material. There was not much to choose from, but the information was simple, easy to access and affordable. Today my internet service is by Time Warner that costs $100 a month, and my modem set me back about $125 to own (2 years ago). Gone is the telephone line only replaced by a smartphone account that averages $75 a month with AT&T Wireless and a monthly fee to Apple in order to own my iPhone 7 plus. Access to information is no longer credible, and I must be vigilant to ensure that my personal data is protected and my network secured from malware. Sadly I wish I had the simplicity of my 1995 life back again because what I researched was credible, inexpensive, reliable and didn’t overwhelm me or my wallet.

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Many of us are seeking ways to cut the cord so to speak. I have satellite television service with DirecTV yet have an Apple TV device connected to the internet. Sure, I could simplify things but at the same time complicate the way I am used to things. Our lives have nearly become a la carte somewhat at what is offered to us. But we become nickel and dimed to death at what we want to choose to have. For example, I could cut the cord and subscribe to SlingBox or something else and add HBO Now and some other goodies such as Netflix or Amazon Prime (which doesn’t work on Apple TV as of yet). But I end up paying what a gave up in original charges and taxes. Yes, I am paying for internet service that I could reduce only to degrade the qualities that I am used to or require. It seems that when we take a step back to average what we receive is below average only to be told by some technical support department “you should upgrade to our premium service.” It makes me want to scream at times. I didn’t experience premium or commercial free back in 1995. It seems that businesses have created clever ways to trap our norms or styles to become no longer premium but platinum in hopes we will keep wanting more. What I think of technology is like a drug similar to heroin. We keep wanting more and find it difficult to quit or stop our addiction. Funny, that our primary supplier of technologies is the very industries that warn us about substance abuse. The media can be so cruel.

What should I do? Become a free spirit and break free from technology? Should I become like my mother that could care less about smartphones, the internet and 260 channels (where she claims 250 channels are infomercials or pay movie based)? Maybe she is right? Perhaps it is a lesson from those generations before us. My grandmother used to say that American culture is like sheep. We just keep following what everyone else has even if we don’t need it. Nevertheless, we buy it and may use it once or twice only to rust away or become obsolete.

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Maybe I should cut all the cords and cordless completely and learn to begin to start smelling the real roses versus the virtual roses. I think I could save a lot of money. But like giving up any addiction or drug the cold turkey will be certainly a hell for me as I hear other addicts say, “what about what happened on Game of Thrones” or “I knew she would do that on House of Cards.” Is there a pill or patch I can use when I begin weening off internet and television? Oh god, I think I may be laughed off the earth, and my dating may be altered if I am seen with a flip phone. I desire simplicity but at what cost? That is who we are today but is it how we want to be?

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