A poll I’m posting because I think it’s wrong — and why!

Social networking sites play a modest role in influencing most U.S. users’ political views, with the biggest impact among Democrats…

The poll by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project comes as Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are using Facebook pages and other social media as campaign tools ahead of the November election.

“For most of those who use the sites, political material is just a small portion of what they post and what they read. And the impact of their use of the sites is modest, at best,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew project, said in a statement.

Thirty-six percent of social networking site users say they are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in keeping up with political news, the survey showed.

The sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to 26 percent of site users in recruiting people to get involved in political issues that matter to them.

A quarter of the site users say they are “very important” or “somewhat important” for discussing or debating political issues, the poll showed.

Twenty-five percent of users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” in finding other people who share their views about important political issues.

In each case, Democrats are more likely than Republicans or independents to say the sites are important…

The telephone survey was conducted from January 20 to February 19 among 1,407 adults.

Pew should know better. Reuters should know better. They limited their sample to a significant portion of the population that starts out behind the times. It was a telephone survey – and Pew is still stuck using landlines for such a survey.

Latest government surveys say a third of all households in America use only cellular service. Those numbers aren’t especially accessible to surveys. Some age groups, like under 30, the number is 50%. None of the surveys I found in a quick Google-around take into account the folks using VOIP services like SKYPE or Vonage – or even the VOIP services from their broadband providers like Comcast – though a number of those folks retain their old landline phone numbers.

All the folks in these unsurveyed demographics are easy to consider a possible vote for a liberal or Democrat candidate. They’ve left behind their father’s phone system – along with a lot of his prejudice and political habits.

American coppers demanded 1.3 million cell records last year

Police are monitoring Americans’ cellphone use at a staggering rate, according to new information released in a congressional inquiry.

In letters released by Rep. Edward J. Markey cellphone companies described seeing a huge uptick in requests from law enforcement agencies, with 1.3 million federal, state and local requests for phone records in 2011 alone…

The data obtained by law enforcement in some requests included location information, text messages and “cell tower dumps” that include any calls made through a tower for a certain period of time. The carriers say the information is given away in response to warrants or emergencies where someone is in “imminent” danger.

“There is no comprehensive reporting of these information requests anywhere,” Markey’s office said in a statement. “This is the first ever accounting of this…”

The growth of cellphone use, private computing and social-media use in recent years has greatly expanded the wealth of information available to law enforcement agencies in investigations, a development in which police investigative abilities have expanded faster than the public has been able to keep track of the extent to which it’s being watched…

“The numbers don’t lie: location tracking is out of control,” Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU, noted in an analysis of the new data.

Anyone going to ask the coppers for a solid reason that can be tracked back in case some ordinary citizen wishes to complain about surveillance? Come on. Let’s hear it from the all-American patriotic Constitution-defending voices of corporate telecommunications.

How about the prosecutors and district attorneys who are always telling us of their devotion to the Bill of Rights, eh? Or is it up the the very few members of Congress with a conscience and commitment to something more than papier-mache liberty?

Access to web, phones elemental to helping the poor

Governments worldwide must boost internet accessibility in order to nurture democracy and economic development, entrepreneur Loic Le Meur said at the prestigious LeWeb technology conference in Paris which he founded.

The conference brought together some 3,500 of the world’s top digital experts and entrepreneurs from 60 countries to discuss the state of the technology industry and its relationship with economic growth.

“Stage one is to help provide those tools to help people express themselves and get more democracy,” Le Meur told AlertNet, the global humanitarian news service run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The next stage is economic development…”

But, while delegates focused attention on how to develop internet technology and smart phones, others outside the conference have pointed to how the more accessible, standard mobile phone can aid social and economic development.

Millennium Development Goal 8 – one among a framework of global targets set in 2000 by the United Nations to be met by 2015 to try and alleviate poverty – stipulates that new technologies, especially information and communications technologies, should be made available to all, in cooperation with the private sector.

Currently, at least 5.4 billion of the planet’s seven billion people have access to mobiles, which means the MDG 8 target is achievable…

Further development of the existing technology used for text messaging known as SMS (short message service) on basic mobile phones could help African farmers get their products to market in Europe for example, said Raul Zambrano, an ICT policy advisor…in New York.

“Most people have a simple, basic SMS voice phone – there are only about 15 percent of people in Africa who can use the Internet,” Zambrano added. “Most of those people are in Egypt and South Africa, the big countries, but in the smaller, poorer countries like Malawi and Mozambique there are very low penetration rates,” he told AlertNet…adding that by 2015 about 80 percent of people will have a device which can connect to the Internet.

Developing countries also need Internet service centers where people can undertake basic business transactions and access basic documents such as birth certificates, land titles and passports to help achieve other MDG targets, he added.

RTFA for details and differences. The Millennium Development Goal is something the best geek journalists [like Om Malik] have been covering for a spell. I expect there will be more coming as the swell of discussion and decision resulting from the conference gets out online.

Much of the developing world is skipping the landline infrastructure and going straight to cellular communications. Software developers already have systems in place in much of South Asia for online banking using SMS. Developments in agriculture marketing and sales can be accomplished without smartphones. That doesn’t mean they are better – but, adequate also often means sufficient.

War Texting lets hackers unlock cars via OnStar

Cellular-based automotive roadside assistance services like GM’s OnStar and BMW Assist allow remote unlocking of vehicles by communicating with remote servers via standard mobile networks. Now a pair of security systems engineers have managed to prove it takes just a few hours of clever reverse engineering to crack the in-car cellular network-based technology to gain access to vehicles. They call their method “War Texting.”

Don Bailey and Mathew Solnik of security company iSEC Partners set up an ad-hoc GSM network, which allowed them to communicate directly with the in-car system, posing as authorized servers. A proprietary protocol that is normally in use proved not be secure enough. All they eventually needed to do, was to send simple messages from a laptop to the car’s computer.

Bailey and Solnik will present their findings during the upcoming Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas in a briefing entitled “War Texting: Identifying and Interacting with Devices on the Telephone Network,” although they will skip the details regarding the attack, to allow manufacturers to fix vulnerable systems.

However, apparently not just car security technologies are defenseless against the “War Texting” hacking method, as cellular networks are also utilized by SCADA systems that monitor and control industrial infrastructure, or facility-based processes.

Isn’t it a little overdue to require manufacturers of systems like these to build-in security protocols to guarantee safety and security. I surely hope no one is counting on wireless providers to do it.

Giving a mobile voice to India’s villagers

In a remote corner of rural India, a new experiment using mobile phones is bringing people news made by local villagers. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey travels to Rajnandgaon district in the central state of Chhattisgarh to see who is tuning in.

A group of villagers sit on a shaded platform on a hot afternoon in Mirche village…

Listening to their complaints and grievances are Bhan Sahu and Budhan Meshram, who are “reporters” or “citizen journalists” for CGnet Swara (Chhattisgarh Net Voice).

CGnet is an attempt to cater to people who are on the wrong side of the digital divide, says Shubhranshu Choudhary, a former BBC journalist-turned-activist and the brain behind CGnet Swara.

“We are providing a new platform which the villagers can use to talk to each other and the outside world about issues that are important to them,” he says…And the technology, developed by Microsoft Research India and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is simple.

“Reporters” call a Bangalore number to upload a news item and a text message goes out to all the phone numbers in the contact list and anyone who wants to hear the report calls in to the same number and the message is played out…

CGnet was launched in February and Mr Choudhary says the response has been overwhelming.

RTFA. Truly interesting anecdotal tales of participants and politics, people finding a voice they know is their own.

More and more Americans taking the wireless road to the Web

More Americans are accessing the Internet using wireless mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

“Use of the Internet on mobile devices has grown sharply from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2009,” with 56 percent of Americans saying that have “at some point used wireless means for online access,” the Pew Center said…

More Americans in 2009 were turning to their handheld for non-voice data activities,” the Pew Center said in its report…

“I think smartphones certainly have a good deal to do with the growth in use of mobile access,” said John B. Horrigan, Pew Internet Project associate director of research. “The devices have more capabilities, networks are more readily available, and this means people are drawn to taking advantage of mobile resources.”

Another key finding, Pew said, is that blacks are “the most active users of the mobile Internet,” with 48 percent saying they have “at one time used the Internet on a mobile device.” On an “average day, 29 percent go online with a handheld — both figures are half again the national average,” Pew said…

For most Americans, Horrigan said, “mobile access is mainly another option for access; among all Americans who have used the mobile Internet, 83 percent have broadband at home. For African-Americans, the story is a bit different; among African-Americans who have used the Internet on a mobile device, 64 percent have broadband at home…

Mistique Cano, vice president of communications for the national Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said smartphones “aren’t an equalizer as much as they’re a stop-gap. Many African-Americans still don’t have access to affordable broadband. Even though mobile technology gets better every day, there are still many things you can’t yet do on a phone.”

Pew said laptops were cited as the main way most Americans get online wirelessly, with 39 percent saying it is their “most prevalent means of wireless access,” and 32 percent saying they have used a cell phone “or other hand-held device to check e-mail, access the Internet for information, or send instant messages.”

I hadn’t realized the hardware demographic was changing this dynamically in the U.S.. I’ve read similar studies about China and India – and I’ll bet the same is happening in Japan and Korea even though broadband access to easier and cheaper in the latter two nations.