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Open Science: Mobile Device Unlocking Response From White House

This article originally appeared on

As anyone who signed the petition and checks their email now knows, the White House has issues a response to the petition to place the mobile device unlocking exception back on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I just received the following email in response:

date: Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 4:54 PM
subject: Petition Response: It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking
It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking
By R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy

Thank you for sharing your views on cell phone unlocking with us through your petition on our We the People platform. Last week the White House brought together experts from across government who work on telecommunications, technology, and copyright policy, and we’re pleased to offer our response.

The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.

This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs — even if it isn’t the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility.

The White House’s position detailed in this response builds on some critical thinking done by the President’s chief advisory Agency on these matters: the Department of Commerce‘s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). For more context and information on the technical aspects of the issue, you can review the NTIA’s letter to the Library of Congress‘ Register of Copyrights (.pdf), voicing strong support for maintaining the previous exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for cell phone carrier unlocking.

Contrary to the NTIA’s recommendation, the Librarian of Congress ruled that phones purchased after January of this year would no longer be exempted from the DMCA. The law gives the Librarian the authority to establish or eliminate exceptions — and we respect that process. But it is also worth noting the statement the Library of Congress released today on the broader public policy concerns of the issue. Clearly the White House and Library of Congress agree that the DMCA exception process is a rigid and imperfect fit for this telecommunications issue, and we want to ensure this particular challenge for mobile competition is solved.

So where do we go from here?

The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.

We also believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its responsibility for promoting mobile competition and innovation, has an important role to play here. FCC Chairman Genachowski today voiced his concern about mobile phone unlocking (.pdf), and to complement his efforts, NTIA will be formally engaging with the FCC as it addresses this urgent issue.

Finally, we would encourage mobile providers to consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices.

We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the wireless and mobile phone industries, and most importantly you — the everyday consumers who stand to benefit from this greater flexibility — to ensure our laws keep pace with changing technology, protect the economic competitiveness that has led to such innovation in this space, and offer consumers the flexibility and freedoms they deserve.

Your move, Library of Congress…

The Effects On Written Communication In The 21st Century Through Social Media

      Written communication has gained a new evolutionary phase with the popularization of social networks. Technical attributes which either limit or shape the structuring of written messages through these mediums have added to and improved the efficacy of the information being communicated by forcing a user to trim the unnecessary pieces of information from the communication. Limits placed on the length of messages have forced a distillation process into the construction of these pieces of information. The ability to append contextual meta-data in the form of tags has added a new dimension to the information. The use of hashtags especially has added this meta-data element directly to a communicated message, giving the piece of information its new dimension of depth and context. Through distillation and meta-data, social media has given written communication an evolutionary push. However, with this change in how we communicate, a number of negative side effects have emerged. Seeking personal contact has declined. Sexting has reared its head as a significant problem among our youth. Cyber-bullying has taken bullying to a new level of extreme, leading to numerous suicides. Through the onset and popularization of social media, the ways in which we communicate have changed greatly.

      The length of a tweet (a post on Twitter), to the popular dismay of many users, is limited to 140 characters (Twitter). This was established not arbitrarily, but rather to be compatible with mobile phone Short Message Service (SMS, also known as a text message) limitations, the service which was the inspiration for Twitter. The notion was that Twitter updates would be posted while on the go via mobile phone (Miller). By being forced to shorten messages, users were trained to distill their information into the most potent form, shedding extraneous complimentary and decorative data. For example, one could initially wish to say, “@Zoe: Jayne, Simon, River, and Mal are meeting at that little pub on East and Washington at 8. Can you arrive fifteen minutes early and get everything set up?” However, this message has a character count of 158, going 12 characters over the 140 character limit. Instead, one could shorten the message by trimming extra information and employing a hashtag. “@Zoe: Jayne, Simon, River, Mal meeting at 8. East & Washington. Please arrive 15 early for setup. #pubmeetup” This message conveys the same key data points and communicates the desired information, but brings the message size down to 108 characters. The character limit which Twitter has imposed on its users has caused the information to be conveyed in a more efficient manner.

      Meta-data is a piece of information used to describe another piece of information (Newnes). With the rise of keyword related web search, blogging, and link services such as, tags have become one of the most prominent forms of meta-data in our culture. Tagging is the appending of content with descriptive meta-data. This is a means of organizing information by subject and simplifying the search process. A content creator can apply or insert tags related to his or her posting to both add context and make bottom up searching for the content more efficient. This replaced the previously dominant web directory model. Tags have been one of the most useful means of processing information for relevance on the internet.

      A hashtag is a # symbol used to note the subject or topic of a message. It originated on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) networks to separate chat subjects called channels. There they remained the standard. Hashtags very rapidly grew into the public consciousness when users of Twitter began using them to inject a topic or subject into posts. It is widely accepted that this began as a proposition in a tweet (a tweet is a message posted on Twitter) by Chris Messina (Messina). One could then create a specific conversation or follow a certain subject by searching tweets based on the inclusion of the hashtag. This has come to be adapted to add context to a piece of information as well. To illustrate how this works, I will use the hashtag #firstworldproblems. (This tweet can be found at “@withindusk: My left mouse button died and the trackpad is following. #firstworldproblems” (Frank). The initial body of the message is a complaint. The hashtag #firstworldproblems is used to provide the perspective of relatively unimportant problems in the first world in contrast to more serious problems in third world nations, and to note that the complaint is acknowledged by the author to be trivial. Through the inclusion of this meta-data, the author is letting the reader know that this complaint is not to be taken too seriously.

      Hashtags found great use during the Arab Spring of 2011. Protesters used Twitter to relay information to one another about security forces in Egypt, as well as to notify the rest of the world (Gustin). It began with the protests in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, with the hashtag #Jan25 (Smith) and Twitter posts reporting on the Egyptian government’s threats to cut internet service in a communication black out. Due to its wide support and the swiftness of communication, the event went from a protest, to a revolution, to the full resignation of President Mubarak inside an unprecedented 18 days. In that time and thereafter, the modern world was able to “watch” the events as they unfolded, as reported by the protesters themselves, by following the #Jan25 hashtag on Twitter.

      Despite these communicative advantages, the convenience of social media has detracted from conventional communication. Where once people actively sought out telephone and personal contact, they now heavily prefer impersonal contact through text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and other such services. This brings with it a number of negative effects. Social filters all but vanish, leaving people to uninhibit communications they would normally apply social filters to in person. Sexting, the act of sending a person nude or suggestive photos via text message, is a widespread and quickly growing problem. One study had a number as high as nearly 20% of its sample group having had once sent a “sext” (Strassberg). Cyber-bullying is on the rise and considered one of the worst social problems in America today. One need not look further than the case of Amanda Todd (CBCNews) to see how serious this matter is. While social media has brought improvements to written communication, it also bears negative side effects.

      In my own experience, impersonal communication through social media and electronic services removes the social filters which would normally be present when interacting with someone in their presence.  Without that face-to-face confrontation, or even vocal feedback via telephone, our brains don’t inhibit us to our various social codes when interacting electronically. This leads to people taking activities further than they otherwise would, not immediately recognizing the social feedback as real.

      Sexting, the act of sending a text message containing sexual content, often a suggestive or varyingly nude image, is a growing problem with youth in the US. According to a survey published in Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 28% of respondents have sent a nude sext (Temple). I hypothesize that this is a concrete sign of how modern culture is sexualizing our youth. Long before they are emotionally or mentally prepared to engage the sexual phase of their lives, they are bombarded with social pressures to be sexually attractive and mature. Striving to be more grown up, teenagers adapt to this pressure by acting out sexually. The easiest way to do this is through impersonal communication via social media and electronic devices. Practically unsupervised and from the false safety of their own room, teenagers dive face first into experimentation through sexting. While they may normally engage in some form of personal experimentation at that phase, it is amplified through the impersonal feel of electronic communication and inhibitions may be relaxed. This being a new phenomenon, the long term effects on the psychology of the current youth participating in these activities remains to be seen.

      Cyber bullying, like sexting, is what happens when traditional bullying meets the internet and is wed by the aforementioned removal of social filters. The effect is monstrous and difficult to combat. The actions are similar to traditional bullying: verbal abuse, false rumor spreading, and intentional humiliation under persistence, but the execution is amplified and more intrusive. Harassment on social networks, character damage through impersonation, mockery, denigration, and persistent written abuse through messages and posts are some examples of ways in which cyber bullies attack a victim (Embrace Civility).
In conclusion, by adding new dimensions to written communication, social media has driven the evolution of information. A combination of length limitations and added dimensions of context have increased the potency of the communication. However, with the improvements have come the negative side effects of lessened personal contact, sexting, and cyber-bullying. The impersonal characteristic of social media and electronic communication has led to an amplification of both the positive and negative effects. There is no doubt that social media has forever altered the ways in which we communicate with one another.



CES 2011 kicks off in a few days and tablets are looking to be the big thing. Wait… is this déjà vu I am feeling?


Today’s Twitters

At the ass crack of dawn, I am greeted by the revelation that Windows 7 Beta is only up as an upgrade from Vista, leaving this XP user out. about 11 hours ago from

Dell, all your Adamo presentation did was annoy people. #CES about 8 hours ago from web

Samsung’s folding OLED display looks nifty #ces09 about 8 hours ago from web

Can we get a Leatherman or Gerber equivalent of the Victorinox? #ces09 about 8 hours ago from web

I want: G2 Microsystems Intel My WiFi Personal Area Network things! #ces09 about 8 hours ago from web

So the Dell Adamo is built like a rock. How does it perform and what will it cost? I must know! #ces09 about 3 hours ago from web

@Veronica Feeling nostalgic today? #ces09 about 3 hours ago from web in reply to Veronica

Revision3 has great live CES coverage right now at #ces09 about 3 hours ago from web

Gearing up for Tekzilla Live at CES at 7:30 EST at #ces09 about 2 hours ago from web

I’m not so sure about this AMD cloud fusion supercomputer idea. #ces09 about 1 hour ago from web

@patricknorton @Veronica Great show, you guys! You made it through a lot of items in a short half hour. I enjoyed every second! #ces09 4 minutes ago from web in reply to patricknorton

I like that ViewSonic displayed on Tekzilla tonight. I want me one. #ces09 2 minutes ago from web

Well, that wraps up my CES for the day. Time to settle down and unwind. What’s in store for tomorrow? #ces09 2 minutes ago from web

Turns out I was wrong. Windows 7 Beta can do a clean install. Test time! half a minute ago from web

Now if only those Windows 7 Beta download servers weren’t crippled from the load less than 5 seconds ago from web

A SquareSpace Review

SquareSpace [link] is a web service on the verge of making my main profession obsolete. It is a WYSIWYG editor and host all wrapped up into one. The designs and elements are slick and intuitive, making a reasonable argument to not hire me. Over the next 14 days, I will muck around with it and provide you with updates on how well it works. Stay tuned!

Today’s Twitters

This is a very exciting time for me. I’m not anywhere near Vegas, but I love watching CES from the e-sidelines! about 7 hours ago from web

Did Steve Ballmer really kick off his keynote with a Republica remix? #CES about 7 hours ago from web

I feel like I’m drinking the kool-aid because I love what Ballmer is announcing. We’ll see how it all works out. I’ll test Win7 on Fri. about 7 hours ago from web

“Sparrow: Actual 12 yr old girl” …where do they find these overlay writers? #CES about 5 hours ago from web

It is almost time to go enter the world of motor vehicle operation …14 years late. about 5 hours ago from web

I want to work in an office and have a desk and termimal. Can someone with an office hire me? about 4 hours ago from txt