John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

A Wallet-Free Future?

        "Code will be a central tool in this analysis.  It will present the greatest threat to both liberal and libertarian ideals, as well as their greatest promise.  We can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to allow those values to disappear.  Code is never found; it is only ever made, and only ever made by us.  How such programming regulates human interactions…depends on the choices made (Code 2.o, Lawrence Lessig, p. 4)."  If we look at the above quote we can see how this applies to the digital code in mobile phones for Contactless Payment systems and how our desire for convenience controls the code that we make to achieve this.

        How has the code affected the way we perform transactions?  Instead of having to interact with a person with our payment, we can wave our phone across a terminal and pay for services or items. For example, Visa has a payWave wireless payment system trial setup to pay for Subways and Taxis in New York.  You need an Iphone or Android phone, an SD Micro card for the Android phone and a case addon for the Iphone.  This allows people to walk by the subway terminal and scan their phone to pay the subway fare.  The issue with this is that it takes the same amount of time to pull out a credit card and swipe it as it does to access the app on the phone and scan it. 


        People are wanting  technology to provide convenience and have security handled at the same time.  In Japan, people can walk by a coke machine and scan their cell phones across a wireless reader which instantly allows them to purchase their item.  The issues of security are not that big of a concern since Japan has very sophisticated security measures on their mobile phones.  This is why the contactless payment system has been such a big success in Japan.  Click here to find out more about Japan's mobile phone security.  This kind of technology has created the issue of people wanting convenience and sacrificing their personal information as a result.  Just read the comments at the end of the "Visa rolling out payWave mobile phone payments in NY subway and taxis," article which has alot of people question the security in contactless payment systems for mobile phones. 

        As far as the government developing a set of rules or rights for contactless payment systems will probably not be in the works for a long time.  From doing research on this topic, I have found that credit card companies want to gain consumer confidence in using their wireless credit card payment system.  As with all payment devices, contactless cards have a number of security features. Contactless runs over the same chip and PIN network as normal credit and debit card transactions, there is a payment limit on single transactions and contactless cards can only be used a certain number of times before customers are asked for their PIN.  Contactless debit and credit transactions are protected by the same fraud guarantee as standard transactions. 

        Under fraud guarantee standards US banks claim to be liable for any fraudulent transactions charged to the contactless cards. However, banks are not liable for the identity theft that the RFID card can encourage.  This still presents a big concern for the consumer using their cell phone to pay for products using the contactless payment system.   So for now it is the corporations who are managing the security of these devices and not the government.  So if your identity is stolen or an illegal transaction was made while using your phone to conduct the transaction, then you have to contact your bank or credit card company to resolve the issue.  There is no government agency that can help consumers with this issue.  So how do we deal with the identity theft issue that this new technology creates?

        To give us security and peace of mind when using contactless payment systems, companies like Visa are using hardware and software to develop more code to secure consumer confidence so that people will continue to use their contactless payment system.  According to  Visa's website they have several security features offered to protect consumers.  Realtime Fraud protection, Transaction Protection, and Zero Liability, are some of the features Visa offers to protect the transaction but not the identity of the person.  So if someone gets a persons name, address, phone number and credit card number, the credit card company will take care of the compromised credit card number but not the issue of personal information being stolen.  Their are a few organizations that can help consumers with this issue.  Life lock and Identity Theft Shield offered by Pre-Paid Legal are the two services that I know of which help track and prevent identity theft for consumers.  Until legislation is passed or a government entity is formed specifically to handle this issue, then this is what consumers have to protect their personal identity.

        Also, instead of going to the bank, we can now take a picture of our check using an application which is downloaded on our smart phone and send it to our bank which is instantly deposited in our bank account.  We can transfer money between accounts or check account balances on the go with our mobile phones by using an app which can be downloaded off of a bank's website. 


        Calling into a phone system to check balances or transfer money can now be done on the go by using our mobile phones.  Our lives have become very automated removing the need for human to human interaction.  Instead, 1 and 0's have taken the place of having any real contact with human beings when it comes to electronic transactions.  So how else has the mobile phone affected or changed our lives?

        Creating a wallet-free future where credit card and banking information will be stored in our cell phones.  Then instead of pulling out a credit card to pay for a purchase, people will pay with their cell phone.  Instead of going to the bank, people will use their phones.  So once companies can make sure financial transactions on mobile phones are completely secure and educate people on how to properly use these new payment or financial systems, then people will be ready for a wallet-free future!

Is it safe to download free apps on your cell phone?

        "To begin with, many of us at some stage in our lives will have taped a CD or TV program, photocopied a book or made use of copied software.  For most of us, there is a world of difference between this kind of activity and crimes like rape, murder or the supply of illicit drugs.  Intellectual property piracy is just not an issue in the way that safe streets and better policing are issues in the public mind (p. 25 Information Feudalism)." 

        Pirated software could cause your personal information on your phone to be compromised.  According to Matthew J. Schwartz with Information Week, "More than 1 million cell phone users in China has been infected with a virus that automatically sends text messages, and the attack is costing users a combined 2 million yuan ($300,000 U.S.) per day."  According to Shanghai Daily, "the 'zombie' virus, hidden in a bogus antivirus application, can send the phone user's SIM card information to hackers, who then remotely control the phone to send URL links."

        Some of the sent text messages contain links to more viruses and if you click the link, your phone could likewise be infected.  Then other text messages get automatically dispatched to premium-rate phone numbers, generating profits for the attackers while draining subscriber's accounts.  According to Zhou Yonglin, an official with China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Team, "about 1 million cell phones had been infected since the beginning of September, and mobile operators were having difficulty eradicating the malicious application, owing to the breakneck pace of new variations appearing."

        Also, some people will download a pirated phone app thinking that they will save money by doing so.  Instead, they download Android.Walkinwat which is a trojan that not only steals a person's information, it also sends a text message to everyone on the user's cellphone list, telling everyone about the piracy.  According to PCWorld, the "Android.Walkinwat adds public humiliation by sending an SMS text message to all of the contacts on the smartphone with the text, ‘Hey, just downloaded a pirate App of the Internet, Walk and Text for Android. Im stupid and cheap, it costed only 1 buck. Don’t steal it like I did!”


        It is hard to tell how many people are using pirated apps that may be compromising the security of their cell phones.  Estimates of people who are using an app they did not pay for are as high as 97.4% in Asia, 70.1% in Europe, and 43% in North America.  So why do people download free apps if it compromises their privacy and is against the law?  Probably because to most people software piracy is not a big issue.  If you can get something for free then what is the harm?  The immediate harm is that a person's private information can be compromised.  These viruses can be easily transmitted by being downloaded as normal games, ringtones, phone alerts and updates, then once downloaded these cell phone viruses can do big damage. 

Cell phone keyboard key

        For most people, software piracy is not a big crime like committing murder or illicitly selling drugs.  Also, if the software is free and very popular then it is one of those "everybody is doing it" attitudes.  Pirated games exist because people get a thrill out of cracking games — and because there will always be people who want something for nothing.  It is the same thing that happened with the music industry.  When music CD's were $20 for a music album, people were gladly downloading their favorite songs for free on sites like Napster and BearShare.  Now that people can download their favorite songs for .99$, the desire for illegally downloading music has dramatically decreased. 
        The same rule holds true for computer software: as long as software designers keep their computer software at a certain price,  people will gladly continue to download pirated copies.  If the software developers had their products priced at $.99 a download or charged a monthly fee to have access to a particular software program, then software piracy would dramatically decrease. 

What would happen if the people in Libya had free speech?

        "Hence, then, is a large lesson about the relationship between a well-functioning  system of free expression and citizen's well-being.  Free speech and free press are not mere luxuries or tastes of the most educated classes; they increase the like-lihood that government will actually be serving people's interests ( 2.0, p. 98)."  The above quote taken from the reading of the book Republic 2.0 shows us why there is unrest in Libya.  For example, Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in an act to protest against high living costs and joblessness in Tunisia.  Then, in Cairo Egypt, a demonstration broke out over high food price inflation, high unemployment, corruption, etc.  Now there are demonstrations taking place in Libya.  Libya has an unemployment rate of 30% along with the problems of health issues and poverty.  As the above quote states, all of this revolves around the issues of freedom of speech and the standard of living costs for citizen's in these arab nation states. 

Libya Unemployment

        The main question is "What happens after people get their freedom and over throw the pre existing tyrannical leaders?"  Egypt right now has removed president Mabarak and most of the people in the government who supported.  The military is now in place to keep the country functional until a new civilian government can be elected.  This is not the case in Libya.  If people were to overthrow Gadaffi, then who would step up to take his place?  Would the current military be able to govern the country temporarily?  Or would another radical group or tyrannical leader take over? 

        According to Najla Abdurrahman, a Libyan-American writer and activist, writes, "After all, Libya lacks political institutions which means it could descend into years of bloody civil war. And Libya is full of Muslims so Islamic extremists could take control of a new government and further destabilise the Arab world.  Do Libyans even realise where they're headed? Have they forgotten about Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq? Gaddafi is admittedly unpleasant, even brutal, but he has held the country together and kept extremists at bay for decades (Libya: Making something out of nothing, Aljazeera)."

        According to the above author, if Gaddafi were to be overthrown, Libya would be in disarray and possibly be taken over by Islamic extremists.  So if the anti Gaddafi supporters had Gaddafi removed from office, would a radical group or dictator step into power and still keep the people of Libya oppressed?  The problem is this could be a possibility considering the issue of extremist groups within the Islamic communities.  If we look back at the beginning of this blog, I took a quote from Cass R Sunstein's Republic 2.0 which stated that "Free speech and free press are not mere luxuries or tastes of the most educated classes; they increase the like-lihood that government will actually be serving people's interests".  The people's interests will not be served if a ruler or group comes into power who will still oppress the Libyan people.  If the issues of poverty and joblessness are not fixed then the people will still continue to suffer.  Cass R. Sunstein is very optimistic that if the freedom of speech and freedom of press are achieved then the government will serve the people's needs.  This could have the opposite effect in Libya in that with the people achieving freedom without a structured plan to rebuild, could fall prey to a more oppressive regime or according to Najila "descend into years of bloody civil war".  The question is, "will overthrowing Gaddafi give the people what they really want?" 


        The leaders in these arab countries need to listen to what the people want and make sure people have what is needed to sustain themselves in their daily lives.  If people do not have their basic needs meet, then revolutions will continue to take place.  When the government starts to suppress or cut off cell phone and internet communication services in response to these demonstrations, then this just adds to the suppression of the people's freedom of speech.  If the mentioned arabic countries do not resolve the issues of their people, then they will continue to face uprisings in the name of freedom and democracy.

What happens if your cell phone or cell phone password gets stolen?

        When reading the book, "Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Sharky", the first chapter starts off with the story of a Stolen Sidekick cell phone.  A woman, Ivanna, lost her phone and a girl by the name of Sasha found the phone and started to use the phone for her own personal use.  When Ivanna bought a new phone, all of the information from the lost phone was transferred to her new phone since her cell phone company stored all of her information on their servers.  This included all of the recent phone calls made, e-mails sent and pictures taken by Sasha with the stolen Sidekick cell phone. 

        Ivanna was able to get Sasha's contact information from an e-mail that was sent by Sasha from the stolen phone.  When Ivanna contacted Sasha about returning the stolen phone, Sasha refused to return it.  Eventually, Ivanna got her stolen cell phone back from Sasha which involved help from a friend and the authorities.  The details of how the phone was returned is not important.  The question to ask is what if Ivanna had sensitive information on her stolen phone like credit card numbers?  Or what if Sasha used Ivanna's phone to prank call or spam the people on her cell phone's contact list?  What if Sasha stole Ivanna's identity?


        If Ivanna had a password on her phone and immediately had her cell phone provider turn off the service on her stolen phone, then Sasha could not have used the phone which means that Ivanna would have never been able to get her stolen phone back.  The benefit to this would be that Sasha would not have access to Ivanna's contact list, pictures, e-mails or any other sensitive information on Ivanna's phone.

        Another Example of a cell phone getting compromised is Paris Hilton, who could of had the information on her cell phone stolen in several different ways.  According to, a hacker by the name of Jacobsen, hacked a T-mobile server and was able to access Paris Hilton including other celebrities cell phone contacts and e-mails.  Some of these e-mails contained pictures of different celebrities which Paris took using her built in camera on her Sidekick mobile phone.  He then posted all of this information on the internet until authorities finally caught him and had the information removed.
 The other way her information could of been compromised, according to T-mobile, was the weak password question and answers she used for recovering her password.  When you reset or recover a password on a T-mobile phone, you have to enter in your cell phone number, username and answer the security question that was created.  Then T-mobile allows you to reset your password.  The issue here is that if this information is stolen or compromised then resetting the password is way too easy.  If the forgotten password or reset link was e-mailed, then this would add another layer of security and possibly stop an account from being exploited.    The connection to make between these two stories is the concern of having personal information stored on a cell phone and on a cellular provider's server.  The question is how vulnerable is our cellular information and is it safe to store it on a cellular providers server?

Forgotten your password  
        T-mobile offers a service called MobileLife which will store all of your contacts information which includes names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, photos, etc.  This information is then accessible through T-mobile's website or the account holder's cell phone.  So when Ivanna received her new cell phone, the pictures and contacts were loaded back onto the new phone because of the MobileLife service.  The danger of this is that having this information online can easily be compromised if a person's password or cell phone is stolen.  Is it safe to trust services like MobileLife, if the security measures in place can easily be compromised?  Is it safe or secure to have a cell phone company store a person's private information on their servers?

        So are cell phones secure or do they allow for people's privacy to be compromised?
If several different layers of security are used, then gaining access to a person's information on their cell phone is very hard to do.  Using strong passwords, reporting a lost or stolen phone, and not giving out your passwords, are just a few of the ways a person can keep their cell phone information secure (Information Services and Technology, IST, has some great tips on how to keep a cell phone secure).  As long as basic security measures or practices are put in place, then this will insure a greater chance of a person's personal information being secured on their cell phone.

Governments and the internet

        Even though the internet does not stop bombs or regimes, it is interesting how countries now stop the internet and or cell phone service in a country when a demonstration or revolution takes place.  For example, the Libyan government, who owns the cell phone and internet service provider companies, shut off these services during the protests.  This is the same action that the Egyptian government tried to do which only incited the protestors.  Eventually the internet was successful in forcing President Hosni Mubarak out of power and it did so by putting alot of outside pressure on the Egyptian Government.

        So, is it true to think that the internet can topple a government?  This was not the case in Iran.  "But while the manic surrounding the manic Iran's Twitter Revolution helped to crystallize the main tenets of the doctrine, it did not beget those tenets ( The Net Delusion, p. 6)."  The Green movement, a group in favor of the opposing presidential canidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, used social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about their upset and corruption of the 2009 Iranian elections.  Even though social networking was used in Iran it was not effective in over throwing the corrupt government.  After the protests subsided, the Iranian government used the internet against the Green Movement.

        "Passport control officers at Tehran's airport asked Iranians living abroad if they had Facebook accounts; they would often double-check online, reagardless of the answer, and proceed to write down amy suspicious-looking online friends a traveler might have (The Net Delusion, p.11)." 
The Iranian government then came out with a statement that if people were caught with anti government based information on their Twitter or Facebook page's that they would be arrested and tried by the Judiciary. 


Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan president, has warned against the use of Facebook and 's security forces have arrested activists who've posted online about the Libyan revolution. 

        Out of the Iran revolution only a small percentage of people were using Twitter.  "98 percent of the most popular links shared on the site during that period were Iran-related.  It's just that the vast majority of them were not authored or retweeted by those in Iran" (The Net Delusion, p. 15 ).  According to Vahid Online, a prominent Iranian blogger and activist, said that many were led to believe falsely that Iranian people were also getting their news through Twitter."

        So if the number of people protesting online inside a country are a very few percentage and if the Iranian government was not toppled, then why has Libya for example shutdown the internet and arrested activists for anti government content on Facebook?  We could look at what is being transmitted but the real answer here is that the internet is causing external pressure from the mass media which is causing internal pressure in Libya.  Gaddafi is afraid of excessive pressure from outside forces and being toppled as what happened to President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.  So shutting down the internet and cell phone service from the Libyan government standpoint seems like part of the solution in quieting the news propaganda.


        "Bizarrely, the irresponsible Iran-related punditry in Washington allowed leaders in Beijing to build credible case for more internet censorship in China (The Net Delusion, p.13)." "On the contrary, most often it's just unthinking acceptance of conventional wisdom, which posits that since authoritarian governments are censoring the Internet, they must be really afraid of it.  Thus, according to this view, the very presence of a vibrant Internet culture greatly increases the odds that such regimes will collapse (The Net Delusion, p.21)."

        It is not that the internet is a weapon against tyranical regims and the promotion of Democracy, it is a way of spreading information.  Even if the information is not true, the damage can already be done once the information is distributed on the internet.  Since anything can be created and distributed on the internet, this is why the internet can be labeled as the perfect propaganda medium that any group, country, or person can use to spread it's message. 

        If Gandafi wants to react by shutting down the internet and making claims that social media is an imperliast conspiracy then let him.  It is just him reacting to the wide spread reach and power of the internet.  In the end, it is humerous how some countries will bad mouth the internet and yet at the same time use it to forward their own agendas! 

How secure are cell phones?

        "In internet governance, the term security now encompasses a host of problems, perhaps too many to fit properly under one word.  It includes the fight against spam, viruses, and phishing.  It refers to bugs in protocols and operating systems on computers, mobile phones, and other devices that create opportunities for exploitation by clever programmers (p 159-160, Networks and States)."
        With the increased rise and wide use of the cell phone, the risk of information being stolen from these devices raise several questions.  For example, "what is the risk of having our private information stolen from our cell phones?"  Is it safe to perform private transactions, such as online banking or contactless credit card purchases on a cell phone?" 

        According to the "Is it safe to bank by cell phone?" article on MSN money, "Mobile browsers are theoretically susceptible to the same kind of security risks as a home or office computer. In reality, they are probably somewhat safer at the moment because creators of password-pilfering viruses and Trojan horses haven't yet fully focused on the mobile market. Of course, mobile Web users are as susceptible as anyone else to the phishing scams and spoofed Web sites that try to trick users into disclosing passwords and other personal data." 


        The same rules apply with desktop computers as they do with cell phones, which is to use the same level of precaution when accessing online information.  These variants cause the following once the phone is infected: leakage of private data, excessive battery drainage, and the spread or replication by using bluetooth.  The key to being safe from these variants is to avoid fake e-mails which look like they have come from reputable sources and being cautious of what websites are visited.     

        Also, the best solution when performing mobile bank transactions is to use proprietary apps that are designed to work with a bank's security algorithm that are resistant and safer then using a mobile web browser which can be susceptible to phishing scams.  The big downside to this is these programs can store sensitive information on the phone itself.  This can be dangerous if the phone is lost and then ends up in the wrong hands so disabling certain features that this app can offer is essential to maintaining optimal privacy of personal information.

        Another issue with using cell phones for financial transactions is the ability of using a cell phone as a credit/debit card.  This technology is currently being used in Japan and is now being used by select retailers in the United States.  All a person has to do is wave their cell phone in front of the credit card terminal and the cell phone terminal picks up the credit card information from the phone which then processes the payment.  Even though this is a quick way to pay and may be the demise of the wallet, there are some key issues with this new technology.

        Privacy, security, and dispute rights are the main concerns with this new technology as mentioned by a coalition of consumer rights advocates.
The issue of privacy with this technology is that a person's location and profile can be transmitted through this contactless payment card system.  Marketers can use this information for marketing and profiling purposes without the consent of the consumer.  The consumer groups say people using contactless devices should be given clear notice of the potential for privacy intrusion.  According to, "consumers should be able to make contactless payments without having their activities tracked except for payment processing and record keeping if that is their desire," the statement says (Contactless payment cards raise security, privacy concerns, consumer groups say, Connie Prater, June 23, 2008).   


        The issue with security is that if someone has an RFID reader, they can intercept the signal and steal the credit card information being transmitted to the payment terminal.  The other concern is the same as mentioned earlier which is the sensitive banking and credit card information stored on the phone.

        Dispute rights are the final issue with these contactless payment systems.  The concern with this is the accuracy and the ability to dispute charges made using this system.  These consumer groups suggest putting a safeguard in place which would allow a daily dollar cap on the amount of transactions processed on these contactless devices. 

       The more mobile our world becomes the issues of privacy and securing of information will still be a big concern.  Using this type of technology comes with great convenience and risks at the same time.  Eventually we may see a new era of mobile devices which will solve all of our needs and be safe at the same time.  Until then, we must be aware of what advantages and disadvantages this new technology brings.