New Bill Bridges Gap Between Constitutional Rights and Technology

Last week, Massachusetts congressman Edward Markey submitted the "Wireless Surveillance Act of 2012," which aims to protect the constitutional rights of cell phone users.

New Bill Bridges Gap Between Constitutional Rights and Technology

What’s the Latest Development?

In 2011, more than 1.3 million cell phone users' data—including texts, caller locations, and specific call information—was handed over to US law enforcement agencies without a judge’s approval. This has been possible because there is no law that necessitates any prior approval to obtain such information. Last week, Massachusetts congressman Edward Markey submitted the "Wireless Surveillance Act of 2012" to congress. Some components of the bill limit how and why enforcement agencies can ask for "tower dumps,” apply home search standards to cell phone location requests, and require law enforcement agencies to better manage cell phone data.

What’s the Big Idea?

Markey’s goal for the bill is to "update the 4th amendment for the 21st century." By applying home search standards to search requests, a judge’s approval would be required before they could use your cell phone to track you. The bill would also allow the FCC to set a specific amount of time that agencies can hold onto data, which currently is indefinitely. As technology increases, the need to tailor the law to the times becomes even greater. This bill takes great strides towards balancing the reach of law with the protection of basic constitutional rights.

Photo Credit:

A Magnetotail Around Mars Would Cause the Planet to Terraform Itself

Imagine the birth of an entirely new ocean on the Martian surface. 


Artist rendition of a terraformed Mars. Flickr.
Technology & Innovation

There are lots of arguments for exploring space and colonizing other planets. Exploration is a natural part of our species. The knowledge we gain is bound to propel our scientific understanding and capabilities. And admittedly, there are plenty of commercial reasons too. Plus, sooner or later, the Earth is going to die out. To survive, we’ll have to become an interplanetary species.

Keep reading Show less

The future of humanity: can we avert disaster?

Climate change and artificial intelligence pose substantial — and possibly existential — problems for humanity to solve. Can we?

Credit: stokkete / 223237936 via Adobe Stock
  • Just by living our day-to-day lives, we are walking into a disaster.
  • Can humanity wake up to avert disaster?
  • Perhaps COVID was the wake-up call we all needed.
Keep reading Show less

Genetics of unexplained sudden cardiac arrest

New research shines a light on the genetics of sudden cardiac deaths.

Photo: Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • Soccer player Christian Eriksen of Denmark recently collapsed on the field from a cardiac arrest. Thankfully, he survived.
  • A new study examined the genetics underlying unexplained sudden cardiac death.
  • About 20 percent of these unexplained deaths are likely due to genetics.
Keep reading Show less
Technology & Innovation

Finally, a scientific cure for the hiccups

A new device cured the hiccups 92 percent of the time in a recent study involving more than 200 participants.