Shifts in sentiment

Sometime in the past month, there seems to have been a shift of sentiment in our government, and it’s finally become allowable to admit certain things, like the fact that the war in Iraq was an ill-conceived operation, based on entirely unrealistic ideas, and has ended in almost total failure. Of course, this doesn’t quite reach to the highest levels – Bush still makes speeches saying things like “Iraqis are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And we’re helping Iraqis succeed” – but there’s a remarkable willingness of officials involved to finally admit that we’re leaving in the foreseeable future, having achieved little or nothing of the lofty goals which were touted at the start of the war. This article from the Washington Post is a good example; lots of quotes from various people, mostly speaking on background but unusually candid.

At the same time, there’s no conjoint movement to cut back on the encroachments into American civil rights over the past few years, nor do I expect there to be one so long as this administration continues; people have come to expect continuous surveillance, background/credit/affiliations being easily investigated, in cases tagged as “relevant to national security” things like the detention of people without any of the protections we would normally expect in civil society. Recent more subtle changes seem to assist that; for instance, US cell phones are now required to transmit GPS locations (for emergency services, of course…), and Nokia’s latest mobile services API makes it possible to write server-side applications that use that location information – without any software being installed on the cell phone. (Nokia isn’t the only one, of course; that’s just the first example I found to hand) I’ll let the technically minded among you imagine a couple of uses for that; it’s sort of a fun exercise, if you think about it as though you were a police officer, a private investigator, a marketer, or simply an armed robber.

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Published in: on August 14, 2005 at 16:09  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. The gps position transmission is actually only used for emergency mode operation (most phones go into a different mode when you *911/911). Continuously broadcasting the received data that you’ve pulled in so that you can tell someone else your position is really hard on the battery (keeps the transmitter talking a lot more than it needs to).
    Also, the phone actually doesn’t know where it is. It knows where it is in relation to the towers, as it’s doesn’t exactly receive GPS signals the way a GPS does. It gathers up a bunch of received signals and timings, and ships that off the tower, which sends it to a server, and the server computes the lat/long of the phone, and sends it back to the phone. It’s a rather complicated system.
    The biggest use (that I know of) for the gps positioning is the CHP 911 call centers (two of them serve the entire state). Apparently, people like to call 911 as they drive by an accident, to report it, but don’t actually stop to see if it’s been reported. So.. The call centers can get 100s of reports for the same accident. Their solution is simply to block all calls originating from the area of the accident, and for about 2 minutes downstream of the accident. Of course, this leads to other problems (like not being able to report any secondary/tertiary accidents, but the call centers just don’t have the bandwidth for the 1000s of concurrent calls that can come in for the dozen or so accidents that have probably happened during the morning commute in the Bay Area.
    Also, my information is pretty much only applicable to the CDMA networks. I have 0 experience with GSM. (Nokia is primarily GSM).

  2. The gps position transmission is actually only used for emergency mode operation (most phones go into a different mode when you *911/911). Continuously broadcasting the received data that you’ve pulled in so that you can tell someone else your position is really hard on the battery (keeps the transmitter talking a lot more than it needs to).
    Also, the phone actually doesn’t know where it is. It knows where it is in relation to the towers, as it’s doesn’t exactly receive GPS signals the way a GPS does. It gathers up a bunch of received signals and timings, and ships that off the tower, which sends it to a server, and the server computes the lat/long of the phone, and sends it back to the phone. It’s a rather complicated system.
    The biggest use (that I know of) for the gps positioning is the CHP 911 call centers (two of them serve the entire state). Apparently, people like to call 911 as they drive by an accident, to report it, but don’t actually stop to see if it’s been reported. So.. The call centers can get 100s of reports for the same accident. Their solution is simply to block all calls originating from the area of the accident, and for about 2 minutes downstream of the accident. Of course, this leads to other problems (like not being able to report any secondary/tertiary accidents, but the call centers just don’t have the bandwidth for the 1000s of concurrent calls that can come in for the dozen or so accidents that have probably happened during the morning commute in the Bay Area.
    Also, my information is pretty much only applicable to the CDMA networks. I have 0 experience with GSM. (Nokia is primarily GSM).


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