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Technically Speaking (October 2005)

Call Me, Ishmael

3 min read
Illustration of a cell phone.
Illustration: John Hersey

When e-mail started to take off in the 1990s, more than one pundit predicted the death of the phone call, as well as the early demise of writing and social interaction. These last two are in fact thriving, thanks to the Internet, and with the proliferation of cellular technology, phones are now entrenched as a ubiquitous part of the cultural landscape. (It’s becoming unusual to see someone walking down the street without a cellphone glued to one ear.) As I’ve argued numerous times before in this space, the importance of a cultural phenomenon is directly related to the number of new words and phrases that surround it, and telephony terms are multiplying with rabbitlike intensity.

For starters, consider cellphone types. It really wasn’t all that long ago that cellphones did one thing and one thing only: handle voice calls. Now cellphones are being crammed with all kinds of nonvoice features: a phone that also plays MP3s is called a music phone; a phone that has a built-in digital camera is a camera phone; a phone that includes PDA-like features—a mobile operating system, an organizer, e-mail, local storage, and so on—is called a smartphone.

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How Police Exploited the Capitol Riot’s Digital Records

Forensic technology is powerful, but is it worth the privacy trade-offs?

11 min read
 Illustration of the silhouette of a person with upraised arm holding a cellphone in front of the U.S. Capitol building. Superimposed on the head is a green matrix, which represents data points used for facial recognition
Gabriel Zimmer

The group of well-dressed young men who gathered on the outskirts of Baltimore on the night of 5 January 2021 hardly looked like extremists. But the next day, prosecutors allege, they would all breach the United States Capitol during the deadly insurrection. Several would loot and destroy media equipment, and one would assault a policeman.

No strangers to protest, the men, members of the America First movement, diligently donned masks to obscure their faces. None boasted of their exploits on social media, and none of their friends or family would come forward to denounce them. But on 5 January, they made one piping hot, family-size mistake: They shared a pizza.

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