Archives April 15, 2019

Are Phone-Addicted Drivers More Dangerous Than Drunk Drivers?

After crunching data on 4.5 billion miles of driving, road-safety analytics company Zendrive concludes there’s a new threat which just last year claimed the lives of 6,227 pedestrians: drivers “under the influence of a smartphone.”

The study points out that drunk driving fatalities peak after midnight, while distracted driving happens all day, conluding that distracted driving is now a bigger threat than drunk driving.

“Phone addicts are the new drunk drivers,” Zendrive concludes bluntly in its annual distracted driving study. The big picture: The continued increase in unsafe driving comes despite stricter laws in many states, as well as years of massive ad campaigns from groups ranging from cell phone carriers to orthopedic surgeons. “They hide in plain sight, blatantly staring at their phones while driving down the road,” Zendrive says in the study.

And it’s a growing problem. Over just the past year, Zendrive, which analyzes driver behavior for fleets and insurers, said the number of hardcore phone addicts doubled, now accounting for one in 12 drivers. If the current trend continues, that number will be one in five by 2022.

The report concludes drivers are 10 percent more distracted this year than last — and that phone addicts have their eyes off the road for 28% of their drive. Yet when asked to describe their driving, 93% of phone addicts said they believed they were “safe” — or “extremely safe” — drivers.

One even insisted that they never texted while driving, “but I like to FaceTime my friends while driving since it makes time go by faster.”

How DNA Companies Like Ancestry And 23andMe Are Using Your Genetic Data

In the past couple of years, genetic-testing companies like Ancestry and 23andMe have become popular for finding out family history and DNA information. More than 12 million Americans have sent in their DNA to be analyzed to companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA. The spit-in-tube DNA you send in is anonymized and used for genetic drug research and both sites have been selling the data to third-party companies, like P&G Beauty and Pepto-Bismol, and universities, like The University of Chicago, for some time. In fact, just last week major pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline, announced a $300 million deal with 23andMe. The deal entails that they can use the data to analyze the stored sample, investigate new drugs to develop and genetic data for how patients are selected for clinical trials. Both 23andMe and Ancestry said that they will not share genetic information freely, without a court order, but people are welcome to share the information online themselves sometimes in order to find lost relatives or biological parents.

Amazon and Google Fight Bill That Prohibits Secretly Recording You

On Wednesday, the Illinois State Senate passed the Keep Internet Devices Safe Act, a bill that would ban manufacturers of devices that can record audio from doing so remotely without disclosing it to the customer. But after lobbying from trade associations that represent the interests of Google, Amazon — makers of the microphone-enabled Google Home and Alexa smart speakers, respectively — and Microsoft, among other companies, the interests of big tech won out… In its current, neutered form, the bill provides exclusive authority to the Attorney General to enforce the Act, which means regular citizens won’t be able to bring forward a case regarding tech giants recording them in their homes.

Ars Technica notes the move comes after Amazon admitted thousands of their employees listen to Alexa recordings — “something not mentioned in Echo’s terms of service or FAQ pages.”

Vice points out that sometimes those recordings are shared “even after users opt out of having their data used in the program.”

Police Are Using Google’s Location Data From ‘Hundreds of Millions’ of Phones

Police have used information from the search giant’s Sensorvault database to aid in criminal cases across the country, according to a report Saturday by The New York Times. The database has detailed location records from hundreds of millions of phones around the world, the report said. It’s meant to collect information on the users of Google’s products so the company can better target them with ads, and see how effective those ads are. But police have been tapping into the database to help find missing pieces in investigations.

Law enforcement can get “geofence” warrants seeking location data. Those kinds of requests have spiked in the last six months, and the company has received as many as 180 requests in one week, according to the report…. For geofence warrants, police carve out a specific area and time period, and Google can gather information from Sensorvault about the devices that were present during that window, according to the report. The information is anonymous, but police can analyze it and narrow it down to a few devices they think might be relevant to the investigation. Then Google reveals those users’ names and other data, according to the Times…

[T]he AP reported last year that Google tracked people’s location even after they’d turned off location-sharing on their phones.

Google’s data dates back “nearly a decade,” the Times reports — though in a statement, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security insisted “We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement.” (The Times also interviewed a man who was arrested and jailed for a week last year based partly on Google’s data — before eventually being released after the police found a more likely suspect.)