(Ryan Radia) The smartphone is arguably one of the most empowering and revolutionary technologies of the modern era. By putting the processing power of a personal computer and the speed of a broadband connection into a device that fits in a pocket, smartphones have revolutionized how we communicate, travel, learn, game, shop, and more.
Yet smartphones have an oft-overlooked downside: when they end up in the wrong hands, they offer overreaching agents of the state, thieves, hackers, and other wrongdoers an unparalleled avenue for uncovering and abusing the volumes of sensitive personal information we increasingly store on our mobile phones.
Over on Ars Technica, I have a long feature story that examines the constitutional and technical issues surrounding police searches of mobile phones:
Last week, California’s Supreme Court reached a controversial 5-2 decision in People v. Diaz (PDF), holding that police officers may lawfully search mobile phones found on arrested individuals’ persons without first obtaining a search warrant. The court reasoned that mobile phones, like cigarette packs and wallets, fall under the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
California’s opinion in Diaz is the latest of several recent court rulings upholding warrantless searches of mobile phones incident to arrest. While this precedent is troubling for civil liberties, it’s not a death knell for mobile phone privacy. If you follow a few basic guidelines, you can protect your mobile device from unreasonable search and seizure, even in the event of arrest. In this article, we will discuss the rationale for allowing police to conduct warrantless searches of arrestees, your right to remain silent during police interrogation, and the state of mobile phone security.
(TECHCRUNCH) Facebook is building a mobile phone, says a source who has knowledge of the project. Or rather, they’re building the software for the phone and working with a third party to actually build the hardware. Which is exactly what Apple and everyone else does, too.
It was a little less than a year ago that we broke the news that Google was working on a phone of its own – which was eventually revealed as the Nexus One. It was about that time, says out source, that Facebook first became concerned about the increasing power of the iPhone and Android platforms. And that awesome Facebook apps for those phones may not be enough to counter a long term competitive threat.
Specifically, Facebook wants to integrate deeply into the contacts list and other core functions of the phone. It can only do that if it controls the operating system.
Both have deep operating system experience.
Hewitt helped create the Firefox browser and was working on Parakey before it was acquired by Facebook in 2007. Parakey, which never launched, was described as a “Web-based operating system.” Hewitt also created all of Facebook’s iPhone web apps and then native apps, but finally quit building for the iPhone in disgust late last year. But he knows operating systems and he knows mobile.
Papakipos also has a perfect background for this project. He was leading the Google Chrome OS project until June. He then quit and went to Facebook. Papakipos is considered a rockstar developer, and there are any number of jobs he’d be able to do at Facebook.
But that doesn’t answer the question of why he’d leave the Chrome OS project before it was finished. It would have taken something really interesting to lure him away. Something like a Facebook Phone, for example.
So what might this phone look and feel like? We don’t know yet. When will it be announced? Don’t know. But I’d speculate that it would be a lower end phone, something very affordable, that lets people fully integrate into their Facebook world. You call your friend’s name, not some ancient seven digit code, for example. I’d imagine Facebook wanting these things to get into as many hands as possible, so I’d expect a model at a less than $50 price. Pay your bill with Facebook Credits. Etc.
As for timing, the holiday season is always a good time to launch new products. But that may be too soon.
Or who knows, the whole project might get killed before it sees light. All we know for sure is that Hewitt and Papakipos are working on something very stealthy together. And we have a source that tells us that stealthy thing is a Facebook phone.
We’re also not discounting possible partnerships around this. Spotify was said to be working on a phone with INQ last year based on a shared investor, Li Ka-Shing. It turns out Li Ka-Shing is also a sizeable investor in Facebook. So an INQ/Facebook partnership on a phone certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.