Hang On, I’m Just Calling My Getaway Car

A bank in Chicago has banned use of cellphones in five of its branches, hoping to prevent the bad guys from communicating with each other during a robbery, according to UPI:

“We ban cell phone use in the lobby because you don’t know what people are doing,” Ralph Oster, a senior vice president [of the First National Bank], told the Chicago Tribune. Cell phone cameras are also a worry.

Oster said there have been holdups in which bandits were on the phone with lookouts outside while committing bank robberies.

As the piece points out, this isn’t the first such ban: West Suburban Bank, based in Lombard, Ill., barred customers wearing hats in January but has not moved to silence cell phones.

Does this make sense? Well, in some ways it does. If there’s a guy hanging around the bank on the phone, it could be that he’s coordinating his getaway car, and you would want to try to nip that kind of thing in the bud. It does happen. By stopping him (or her) from using a cellphone he may decide not to rob your bank, but the one next door instead, where cellphones aren’t banned.

However, where does it stop? Would someone texting/SMSing be told to stop? And how would a security guard, however many PhDs he has, be able to tell the difference between someone jabbing away on a cellphone and jabbing away on a PDA? How about people using handsfree devices? Are they just singing/talking to themselves?

On the other hand, isn’t there an easier way? I would have thought a cellphone blocker would be a better idea (check out this excellent Google Answer on the difference between jammers (illegal in the U.S., since it involves actually interfering with the signal) and blockers (which build a shield around the location to block signals from penetrating it).

Of course, there are downsides. How many times have you been in a bank and then realized you needed to contact a friend/colleague/family member to discuss how much money you should take out/deposit/borrow? As Bruce Schneier would say, devices can be used for both good and ill and if the good outweighs the ill, as it usually does, banning is stooopid:

We don’t ban cars because bank robbers can use them to get away faster. We don’t ban cell phones because drug dealers use them to arrange sales. We don’t ban money because kidnappers use it. And finally, we don’t ban cryptography because the bad guys it to keep their communications secret. In all of these cases, the benefit to society of having the technology is much greater than the benefit to society of controlling, crippling, or banning the technology.

Headsets Get the Bling Treatment

A few weeks back on my WSJ.com column (subscription only; I’ll update you when it’s out on the BBC World Service) I explored the world of bling cellphones, including the Vertu range, the Kathrine Baumann “Wireless Wardrobe” Collection (inexplicably that collection is now password-protected since I last visited), the fancy wooden Mobiado range, and the diamond-encrusted, gold-set Samsung. I guess it was inevitable that headsets would start getting the bling treatment, and here’s the first: the Dimante Pink Bluetooth Headset (via Red Ferret:

Hedset

The Pama P7008 Bluetooth headset comes with the usual Bluetooth Version 1.2 compliancy, with Headset & Handsfree Profiles, One Button action, up to 5 hours talk time and 200 hours standby, weighs “just 12.7g”, and is the Ideal Bluetooth Hands Free Kit Gift for the Woman in your Life! (it says here).

Frankly I feel insulted. Why can’t us fellas have one? The only problem I can see is that with all that bling on your ear, aren’t you becoming a walking mugging invitation?

Of course you might be asking yourself why a diamond-encrusted handsfree weighs the same as an ordinary headset and costs about the same (£47.95, or $84) as an ordinary headset. That’s because of the $17 Crystal Bling Design Kit which lets you jazz up your accessories — from cellphones to iPods — with little bits of shiny crap, sorry, Crystal Diamante. I think I’m going to bling up my Treo 650.

News: Beware The Mobile Phone

 I have long believed that we use mobile phones too much, considering what little we know about the effects on our health. Why is why I like handsfree sets and SMS. Most studies that say they’re bad for us have been pooh-poohed. Here’s another one to throw out because we don’t like what it says.
 
The Independent quotes a new study from Sweden as saying mobile phones and the new wireless technology could cause a “whole generation” of today’s teenagers to go senile in the prime of their lives. Professor Leif Salford, who headed the research at Sweden’s prestigious Lund University, says “the voluntary exposure of the brain to microwaves from hand-held mobile phones” is “the largest human biological experiment ever”. And he is concerned that, as new wireless technology spreads, people may “drown in a sea of microwaves”.