Connect with us

Digital economy

Europe and America have a Right To Know About #5G Cell Phone Safety

SHARE:

Published

on

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Google announced they are testing a new 5G smartphone, a move that aims to expand the company further into the branded hardware market, writes Theodora Scarato, executive director of Environmental Health Trust.

On 10 September, Apple launched three new iPhones (iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max). Not to be shut out of the game, also last month, Samsung released their much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy Fold, the first foldable smartphone. As the leading tech companies vie for first place in the 5G smartphone market, will they also issue clear warnings to the consumer public that their phones are not intended to be used in close body contact?

Advertisement

On 22 August, the law firm of Fegan Scott filed a class action lawsuit against Apple and Samsung alleging that these two tech companies are misleading customers because their cellphones are marketed on the premise that the devices can always be used in close contact to the body (i.e. in the pocket). But phones in these very positions could result in the body absorbing high levels of cell phone radiation. So high, in fact, that the phones could violate the radiation safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.

The litigation was prompted by disturbing findings released in an August 21, 2019 Chicago Tribune investigation into cell phone radiation. The Tribune independently tested several popular cell phones and found that the phones emitted far more radiation than reported by the  manufacturers. Most importantly, radiation levels skyrocketed from two to five times the legal limit when phones were tested in positions close to the body, such as mimicking a phone in a pants pocket.

Many people incorrectly assume that cell phone radiation levels are safe, no matter how or where the phone is being used. But fine print warnings buried deep in the manufacturers’ manuals state that the phone is radiation tested a specific distance away from the body. For the iPhone 7 that distance is 5mm, but for the iPhone 3 it was 15mm.

Advertisement

In 2017, the government of France was pressured by Dr. Marc Arazi into finally releasing data from the hundreds of cell phones they tested since 2012. The  majority exceeded the legal limits when tested at body contact. In response, the European Union strengthened compliance tests so the distance can’t exceed 5mm and several smartphone models have now been withdrawn from the market or software updated. As many models with excessive radiation levels still remain on the market, Arazi of the Phonegate association has now filed legal action against Nokia and Xiaomi stating, “The manufacturers have deceived the users of more than 6 billion mobile phones.”

The radiation levels found in the smartphones tested by France could violate US  limits by 11 times according to published analysis. Fegan Scott characterized the situation as the “Chernobyl of the cell phone industry, cover-up and all.”  This October, the French Health Authority released a report recommending that phones be radiation tested at body contact- not at 5mm. In response to this report,  the French ministries of Health, Ecology and Economy issued a press release statement announcing their recommendation that phones be tested at body contact. They also called for the public to reduce cell phone radiation exposure. US National Institutes of Health scientist published their findings of DNA damage associated with cell phone radiation in their $30 million animal study.  This really should be the crack in the dam. Yet in the US, the FDA has been informed but taken no action.

What’s far more curious is that over the years, phone manufacturers have wordsmithed these fine print warnings such that consumers are confused.

Why not directly state: “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket, or tucked into a bra, when the phone is on and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.”

In Berkeley, California, retailers are required to state this exact warning to cell phone consumers after the city passed their Cell Phone Right To Know Ordinance in 2015. It should be noted that after the Ordinance passed, the telecom industry group CTIA litigated all the way to the Supreme Court claiming the ordinance violated their free speech rights.

For two years after the Apple iPhone 6 debut in 2015, Apple shared the following statement regarding the model, “Carry iPhone at least 5mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels.” While this sentence was still on their website on 2 March, 2017, it was removed by 9 November, 2017. Similarly, the iPhone 7 was released in 2016, along with the same online instructions to carry it “5mm away from your body” which disappeared from the Apple website by 9 November 9, 2017.

Apple’s website still includes information that cell phones are tested with a separation distance. However, the text is absent of clear instructions to consumers. Years ago, iPhone 3 filings to the FCC stated “iPhone’s SAR measurement may exceed the FCC exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body (e.g. when carrying iPhone in your pocket).” They clearly stated, “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body.” Were iPhone 3 consumers aware of these instructions then? Why not inform users now?

Fegan Scott claims that “research strongly suggests that cell phone manufacturers knew – or should have known – that the radiation levels were well above what they were claiming”.

Babies are handed cell phones to cuddle in shopping carts.  A child's first cell phone is seen as a rite of passage and yet many don’t even know how to turn the phone off. They carry phones in their pockets- as do most men. Women carry phones directly against their body- tucked in their bras and spandex pants.

As with Dieselgate, the problem lies in the test itself.  A 2012 Government Accountability Report found human exposure limits and test protocols decades outdated. A  Harvard expose points to “undue industry influence” in US regulatory agencies and published analysis document conflicts of interest in the international “authorities” many countries rely on.  Phones are simply not radiation tested the way we use them- at body contact. It is time to hit the reset button. Before deploying 5G infrastructure and allowing 5G phones on the market, the US should first hold Congressional hearings on the oversight and safety of wireless devices.

Theodora Scarato is executive director of Environmental Health Trust.

Digital economy

Commission launches structured dialogue with member states on digital education and skills

Published

on

The digital transition, a key priority of the European Commission and Member States, relies on a digitally skilled workforce, digitally empowered citizens and a strong digital education system. Following President von der Leyen's call for “leaders' attention and a structured dialogue at top-level” in her 2021 State of the Union address, and delivering on the Digital Education Action Plan and the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, the Commission announced today to kick off such structured dialogue with member states.

On the occasion of a project group meeting of nine involved College Members, Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, Vice President Margaritis Schinas, and Commissioners Mariya Gabriel, Nicolas Schmit and Thierry Breton declared: “Digital education and skills are a cornerstone of the digital transition. For our Digital Decade, we have set ambitious targets, such as to equip 80% of people with basic digital skills and to have 20 million ICT specialists employed in the EU by 2030. We will only achieve this if we work as one in the EU, at all levels. This is why we are very pleased that the structured dialogue is launched today with a roadmap for action. We have set some ambitious objectives, and only by working all together we will be able to reach our targets.”

Member states are invited to join the dialogue and to agree jointly on the key enabling factors to make digital education and training effective and inclusive. It will include different branches and institutions of government, from education and training institutions to infrastructure providers, to private sector, social partners and civil society. The structured dialogue will run until end-2022. Based on its outcomes, the Commission will propose by the end of the same year concrete initiatives on enabling factors for digital education and skills. 

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Digital economy

Digital Services Act: Legal Affairs Committee attacks user privacy and free speech online

Published

on

Today (30 September), the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) adopted its recommendations on the Digital Services Act as proposed by French opinion rapporteur Geoffroy Didier (EPP). For the benefit of citizens, the Committee calls for a right to use and pay for digital services anonymously and for a ban on behavioral tracking and advertising (AM411). Voluntary own-initiative investigations by online platforms shall not lead to ex-ante control measures based on upload filters (Art. 6).

There shall generally be no obligation for companies to use the controversial upload filters (Art. 7), as “such tools have difficulties of effectively understanding the subtlety of context and meaning in human communication, which is necessary to determine whether assessed content violates the law or terms of service”. The DSA shall not prevent the offering of end-to-end encrypted services (Art. 7).

Public authorities shall be given the right to order the reinstatement of legal content that was removed by platforms (Art. 8a). Dark patterns are to be banned (Art. 13a). However MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party), shadow rapporteur of the Greens/EFA group, warns about other parts of the opinion: “These proposals threaten the confidentiality of private correspondence, encourage error-prone ex-ante upload filtering, introduce excessively short content take-down delays, enforce excessive national laws (e.g. in Poland or Hungary) throughout the EU, turn 'trusted flaggers' into 'trusted censors' and much more. I don’t think all my colleagues in the Legal Affairs Committee are aware of the implications. They reflect mas-sive lobbying by the content and rights holder industry.”

Advertisement

Attack on confidentiality of instant messaging

Specifically the proposed Article 1 would add private communications/messaging services to the scope of the DSA. This threatens the privacy of correspondence and secure encryption. Obliging messaging providers to review and remove the content of private messages (Art. 8, 14) would prohibit secure end-to-end encryption which citizens, businesses and governments rely on. The Committee’s proposal to exempt the personal use of messaging services does not work because it is impossible for the service to know the pur-pose of an account or message without reading correspondence and breaking encryption.

Risk of overblocking

Advertisement

Furthermore, the proposed Article 5 would fundamentally change the liability regime, burden businesses, favour overblocking of content and threaten fundamental rights of users:
• Par. 1(b) would mandate error-prone upload filters by requiring providers to "permanently" remove certain pieces of content. Algorithms cannot reliably identify illegal content and currently routinely re-sult in the suppression of legal content, including media content. Reappearing content can be legal in a new context, for the new purpose or posted by another author.
• Par. 1a would impose inflexible and excessively short take-down delays, some even shorter than for terrorist content. Without the time for proper scrutiny providers will either have to underblock illegal content ("we didn't have time to establish this is illegal") or to overblock legal content ("we'll take it down just to be on the safe side"). This is a major threat to the fundamental right to free speech.

Race to the bottom regarding free speech

The proposed Article 8 would allow one member state with extreme national legislation to order the removal of content published legally in another member state. This would result in a race to the bottom regarding freedom of speech, with the most repressive legislation of all prevailing throughout the Union. Also enforcing EU law globally by removing content published legally in non-EU countries would result in retaliation by those non-EU countries (e.g. Russia, China, Turkey) asking EU providers to remove perfectly legal and legitimate content on the basis of their excessive national rules.

Error-prone upload filtering

The proposed Article 14 would introduce a strict 72h time limit for deciding on reported content. Without the time for proper scrutiny providers will either have to underblock illegal content ("we didn't have time to estab-lish this is illegal") or to overblock legal content ("we'll take it down just to be on the safe side"). It would also allow providers to use error-prone re-upload filters to block the uploading of deleted content (“stay-down”). Algorithms cannot reliably identify illegal content and currently routinely result in the suppression of legal content, including media content. Reappearing content can be legal in a new context, for the new purpose or posted by another author.

Filtering algorithms cannot reliably tell legal from illegal. “Trusted censors” Art. 14a(2a) would essentially allow private "trusted flaggers" to have content directly removed or blocked without even the provider needing to assess the legality. This would turn "trusted flaggers" into "trusted cen-sors" and threaten the accessibility of legal content. Art. 20 (3c) would indirectly abolish anonymous accounts and mandate identification of all users in order to prevent suspended users from using or registering another account.

Multiple online identities are essential to activists, whistleblowers, human rights defenders, women, children and many more who cannot disclose their real identity. Outlook The Legal Affairs Committee’s recommendations will be discussed in the lead Internal Market (IMCO) Committee, which plans to finalize the text before the end of the year. Next week the IMCO negotiators will meet for the first round of debating politically controversial issues.

Continue Reading

Digital economy

Commission proposes a Path to the Digital Decade to deliver the EU's digital transformation by 2030

Published

on

On 15 September, the Commission proposed a Path to the Digital Decade, a concrete plan to achieve the digital transformation of our society and economy by 2030. The proposed Path to the Digital Decade will translate the EUʼs digital ambitions for 2030 into a concrete delivery mechanism. It will set up a governance framework based on an annual cooperation mechanism with Member States to reach the 2030 Digital Decade targets at Union level in the areas of digital skills, digital infrastructures, digitalisation of businesses and public services. It also aims to identify and implement large-scale digital projects involving the Commission and the Member States. The pandemic highlighted the central role that digital technology plays in building a sustainable and prosperous future. In particular, the crisis exposed a divide between digitally apt businesses and those yet to adopt digital solutions, and highlighted the gap between well-connected urban, rural and remote areas. Digitalisation offers many new opportunities on the European marketplace, where more than 500,000 vacancies for cybersecurity and data experts remained unfilled in 2020. In line with European values, the Path to the Digital Decade should reinforce our digital leadership and promote human centred and sustainable digital policies empowering citizens and businesses. More information is available in this press release, Q&A and factsheet. President von der Leyen's State of the Union Address is also available online.

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending