Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–November 9, 2015

IRS Use of ‘Stingray’ Devices to Track Cellphones Sparks Senate inquiry
The Internal Revenue Service’s newly revealed use of controversial “Stingray” cellphone trackers has prompted an inquiry by Senate Judiciary Committee leaders about how and why the IRS is using the surveillance equipment. The senators said they are concerned that the IRS could be invading Americans’ privacy by using Stingrays. Stingrays mimic cellphone towers, tricking phones within a certain radius to connect and feed data to police about users’ approximate locations. They also can pick up text messages and other data. Law enforcement agents say Stingrays are key to tracking down criminals, but the devices also sweep up data from Americans who are not suspected of any crime. Story by Erin Kelly for USA Today.

Mobile Malware Risk Is Greater Than Ever
Mobile users have been warned to stay active against an ever increasing barrage of malware attacking their devices. A report from security experts Kaspersky Lab found that the amount of new malicious programs affecting mobiles rose 10.8 percent in the third quarter of 2015, as mobile banking apps came under particular assault. Overall, 323,374 malware programs were detected in Q3 2015, a three-fold rise over the amount seen in the first quarter of the year. Story by Michael Moore for Tech Week Europe.

Here’s What Teens are Really Doing on Their Smartphones
If it seems as if teenagers are spending a lot of time connected to their screens, that’s because they are. About a quarter of their day, to be exact. The average teen from 13 to 18 years old spends about nine hours a day consuming media–and that’s outside of their school and homework. Kids ages 8 to 12, or tweens, are spending about six hours in front of screens. They’re watching shows, playing games, connecting on social media and listening to music – sometimes all at the same time. Story by Michelle Maltais for the Los Angeles Times.

Senators Unveil Bill to Repeal Budget Deal’s Robocall Provision
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and 10 other members unveiled their bill to scrap a section of the budget deal that allows the government to robocall people’s cellphones to collect debt. The Hangup Act would simply repeal the small Commerce section of the bipartisan deal approved last week that exempted government debt collectors from portions of the telephone consumer protection laws. Markey’s office said his bill would protect “student loan and mortgage borrowers, veterans, farmers, taxpayers, and others from unwanted robocalls and texts.” The Obama administration pushed to include the language in the budget agreement that was negotiated between the White House and congressional leaders. The administration has argued it could bring in millions of dollars and help people from defaulting on their debt and ruining their credit. Story by Mario Trujillo for The Hill.

Citi Tests ATMs that Replace Plastic Cards with Mobile Phones, QR Codes, NFC and Iris Scans
Citi has begun testing a screenless, cardless ATM concept developed by Diebold that lets customers make transactions using their mobile device instead of a plastic card and authenticate themselves using NFC, QR or an iris scan. Customers using one of the new Irving ATMs download a mobile app and set up the transactions they wish to make when they reach the ATM on their mobile phone. They can then chose to have a QR code scanned by the ATM, tap their NFC phone against the ATM or have their iris scanned to authenticate themselves in order to complete the transaction they previously logged inside the mobile app. Story by Rian Boden for NFC World.

Few People are Using Apple’s Mobile Payments Service
Relatively few people are using Apple’s new mobile payments service, called Apple Pay, according to a new study from Trustev. Apple released its mobile payments service earlier this year, with the backing of several large retailers and banks. In the United States, the service has struggled to find a foothold among consumers, as they appear to favor other payment services that were also recently released in the country. As a market, mobile payments continues to grow in the U.S., with more consumers favoring paying for products with their smartphones and tablets. Story in Mobile Commerce Press.

Sony Starts Making Premium Smartphones in Thailand
Japan’s Sony Corp aims to make 600,000 to 700,000 premium smartphones in the first year at its new wholly-owned plant in Thailand which began production in September. The start up of its first overseas mobile phone plant in two decades is part of Sony’s strategy to turn around its loss-making mobile phone business by prioritising profits over volume and shifting its focus to high-end smartphones. Sony currently produces most of its smartphones at its joint venture in China. Its investment comes at a critical time for Thailand as its military-led government struggles to revive Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy after taking power in a 2014 coup, with exports and domestic demand sluggish. Story by Reuters.

Taiwanese Artist Builds Car from Mobile Phones
A Taiwanese artist has spent the past four months working on an unusual project – a life-size car made out of 25,000 mobile phones. Lin Shih-Pao has spent $30,000 (£19,450) and four years travelling the world, collecting thousands of old and discarded mobile phones for the piece. His aim is to spread environmental awareness, showing how a pile of rubbish can be recycled and converted into a piece of modern art. Story in the BBC News.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of SaveOnPhone.com. He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.