Cell phones

Alan Levine / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has begun removing more than 1,000 emergency roadside call boxes because too few people use them now that nearly everyone has a cellphone.

The turnpike commission says it will save about $250,000 a year by removing the boxes, which should be gone by the end of the month.

The boxes were installed in 1988 and in the year 2,000 motorists used them more than 18,000 times to call for help. Last year, the boxes were only used 772 times.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office / AP

Cell phone monitoring has come a long way since the likes of television shows like The Wire and CSI. But unlike fictional surveillance, some devices currently used by law enforcement don’t require a warrant... or any permission at all.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, host David Harris talks to Adam Bates, who studies the secret use of Sting Ray devices at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

T-Mobile Fined $48M Over Slowing 'Unlimited' Data Plans

Oct 19, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

T-Mobile, the country's No. 3 wireless carrier, will pay $48 million for not clearly telling customers how "unlimited" data plans weren't really, well, unlimited.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that T-Mobile had a policy to slow down the speeds of customers who were the heaviest data users. But the company didn't let customers know how much data used would trigger the lower speed.

The FCC says T-Mobile started doing a better job with disclosures in June 2015.

Better Than A Sell-By Date, Your Phone Could Soon Tell You How Fresh Your Food Is

Mar 3, 2016
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Pittsburgh’s Lauren Wallace is willing to go the extra mile to make sure she’s getting the freshest milk possible at the grocery store. She regularly inspects the sell-by dates on the cartons and even digs to the back of the cooler to get the best ones. And when the milk in her fridge hangs around beyond the expiration date, she doesn’t even give the milk a chance to make a case that it’s still viable.

“I automatically dump it,” Wallace said. “I wouldn’t even taste it.”

Wallace isn’t alone.

Flickr user daveynin

A group of state senators is hoping toughen traffic laws around cell phone use.

Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) earlier this year introduced a bill to make using a cell phone while driving a secondary offense.

“There would be no violation of this law, if it were to pass, unless the person was convicted of another traffic offense,” Teplitz said.

Jonas Seaman / flickr

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases with outcomes that could have a big impact on the future of information privacy.

These cases question the Fourth Amendment exception, which lets police to search any items on a person at the time of arrest, including cell phones.

Yet many argue that cell phones should be treated differently. University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris explained why many say cell phones are more akin to a diary than a wallet and should require a warrant for search and seizure.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has joined top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York in a nationwide initiative to thwart smartphone thefts by rendering the devices useless after a robbery.

The “Secure Our Smartphones” initiative was introduced in Pennsylvania by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this week. It’s a collaboration among attorneys general and municipal leaders asking cell phone manufacturers to develop a “kill switch” for stolen phones.

Pittsburgh City Council District 7

The Pittsburgh Planning Commission is reviewing legislation that would create incentives for communications companies to conceal cell phone towers and antennas within regular urban structures.

A Pittsburgh resident originally proposed the idea to District 7 Councilman Patrick Dowd, who introduced the measure to Council on Tuesday.

District 7 communications manager Nathaniel Hanson said the legislation would encourage companies to hide their new antennas within the most workaday buildings and objects.