Cell Phones, Terrorism, and Paris Hilton

by Mike on 3/21/2007

in Insecurity

Would you be surprised to receive a text message from Paris Hilton? If Hollywood PR agencies read the latest from Scrivs, it could happen:

Imagine Twitter in the hands of Paris Hilton (okay maybe not the best example). How many people would subscribe to her Twitter feed vs. a blog feed? Celebrities could control their own gossip. Don’t think you can create something powerful with such a simple tool?

Some celebrities and politicians have already caught on to the idea and it’s sure to spread. But that’s just the first wave. Just like with blogs and YouTube it’s only a matter of time before the first Twitter hoaxster crops up, and goes viral. Other possible exploits, hacks, and unintended uses are sure to follow. Keep an eye on that one.

But cell phones are more than just potential tools for PR flacks. They’re also potential tools for terrorists. Consider:

Over at Freakonomics, Steven Levitt has wondered whether …the ban on electronic devices on airplanes is the product of a regulator with an overactive imagination. But some people still believe. What if it were true, that cell phone use during takeoff and landing, besides merely being obnoxious, could possibly be dangerous? We can’t bring a four-ounce bottle of shampoo in our carry-ons, but try to peel our cell phones and iPods out of our warm, living fingers and you’ve got a real conflict brewing. But if it’s true that cell phones can disrupt critical systems on airplanes, what’s to stop of group of dedicated terrorist from bringing their phones on a plane and trying to make several phone calls all at the same time? Death would rain from the skies. That is, if it’s true.

But a terrorist need not leave the ground to use his cell phone as an implement of terror. The gas station near my house has this news article plastered all over every pump claiming that cell phone use can cause sparks that could ignite gasoline fumes, setting off an inferno. The story may not be true, but if it was, how useful. No longer would a terrorist have to rustle up some stolen military-grade explosives, or buy a truckload of fertilizer. He could simply grab a cheap cell phone, head over to fill his gas tank, and dial 1-800-MARTYRDOM.

The gas station near my house is quite diligent — they have an on-site attendant whose sole purpose seems to be squelching illicit cell phone use. The airlines I fly on have all trained their attendants to clamp down on cell-phone use as well. So I’m secure for now. But if we drop our guards, it won’t just be shoes and shampoo that terrorists have manged to ruin for us all.

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