All posts by John Skrhak

John Skrhak | Gadgets, Sports and Toys Fanatic | Read about them all here.

Most Americans think the government is snooping on them

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

Encryption button on keyboard

Do we now expect that someone is always looking over our shoulder?

Getty Images

When you’re sending a little email do you worry that some representative of Big Brother is going to try to read it?

When you make a phone call, do you suspect that one government security service or another might choose to listen in at the flick of a switch or click of a mouse?

I only ask because of a fascinating new Pew survey. It specifically examined the Muslim American experience by talking to 1,001 Muslim Americans aged 18 and over between Jan. 23 and May 2 this year. 

It offered, though, some sobering thoughts for all and about all.

As might be expected in our torrid times, Muslim Americans believe that instances of discrimination are increasing. They also say that media coverage of Islam is unfair.

Yet one statistic seems more surprising. It concerns government snooping on phone calls and emails.

A total of 59 percent of US Muslims believe their communications are being surveilled by Big Brother. You might be surprised that its only 59 percent. That leaves 41 percent with a remarkably trusting attitude towards authority. 

And then you see how trusting the general American population is. A fulsome 70 percent of Americans believe the government is monitoring their emails and calls. (The research on the general public was performed between Feb. 7 to 12 this year). 

You might ponder why Americans as a whole are even more suspicious of the government than are Muslim Americans. 

You might also ponder that Muslim American women are just as suspicious as the rest of America (70 percent), while more Muslim American men (52 percent) don’t think it’s likely that the government is surveilling them.  

That is faith.

Neither the National Security Agency nor the Department of Justice responded immediately to a request for comment.

At the heart of all this prevailing suspicion, though, isn’t merely an American culture that places individualism on a pedestal and treats government with the suspicion of a militia member.

Advances in technology have surely made us believe that surveillance must be taking place.

We’ve all come to realize the new digital world has made it far easier for everyone to snoop. 

After all, Google, Facebook and the like seem to magically serve us ads on the basis of exactly what we’ve been thinking about five or 10 minutes ago.

The onrush of artificial intelligence will surely only make this magic more pronounced and accurate. 

Disappearing privacy and embedded suspicion now feel like the norm. We’ve willingly given up a lot of ourselves in order to buy objects more conveniently and tell others about our lives more readily.

Is it too late to consider whether it’s actually a good thing?

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

Special Reports: CNET’s in-depth features in one place.

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The big phone season is starting (The 3:59, Ep. 257)

We are on the cusp of phone-launch season, with flagships from Samsung, Apple, Google and others expected. 

With that in mind, we invited CNET mobile reviewer Scott Stein on today’s show to talk about his visit to the Motorola Z2 Force launch event and his expectations for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 reveal next month.

The 3:59 gives you bite-size news and analysis about the top stories of the day, brought to you by the CNET News team in New York and producer Bryan VanGelder.

Check out the extended shows on YouTube.

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Google drops Instant Search to unify mobile and desktop queries

More than half of all Google searches happen on mobile, so it makes sense that Google would want to unify the way results are displayed across all devices. While you’ll still be able to see search suggestions, the results below won’t update until you click on Enter or a result, says SearchEngineLand.

“We launched Google Instant back in 2010 with the goal to provide users with the information they need as quickly as possible, even as they typed their searches on desktop devices,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget in an email. “Since then, many more of our searches happen on mobile, with very different input and interaction and screen constraints. With this in mind, we have decided to remove Google Instant, so we can focus on ways to make Search even faster and more fluid on all devices.”

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Do not buy a new iPad at full price

apple-ipad-pro-2017-005Enlarge Image

The new 10.5-inch iPad is $50 off at Staples until July 29.

Sarah Tew/CNET

We’re seeing discounts on new iPads on almost a weekly basis, with Staples serving up the latest deal: $50 off the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro in both 64GB and 256GB configurations (and all colors), bringing their prices to $599 and $699 respectively. The offer expires Saturday, July 29.

Last week Best Buy had some nice discounts on the iPad Mini 4 and the new entry-level 32GB iPad — it had it for $280 for its Black Friday in July sale.

For comparison, the retailer sells last year’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro 128GB for $525. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro has the bigger screen (in the same body) and a bumped-up A10X Fusion processor.

As the back-to-school season kicks into high gear, expect new iPad deals to appear on a steady basis. Not too long after that, we should start seeing holiday deals too.

It’s also worth noting that if you walk into an Apple Store during the Staples sale and want to purchase a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, the Apple Store should match the Staples deal. Last we looked into the matter, Apple Stores will match discounts up to 10 percent of the product’s price from an Apple-certified retailer.   

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Elon Musk’s car elevator is the future of sewer drag racing

In a sign that the billionaire tech entrepreneur’s underground road project is continuing apace (and that he’s sick of using regular roads like the rest of us chumps), Elon Musk Instagrammed a video of a car elevator designed to send vehicles underground.

Testing The Boring Company car elevator

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Jul 25, 2017 at 11:26pm PDT

He used a Tesla (of course) outside SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

It was a test for Musk’s new venture, The Boring Company, which is currently digging tunnels across LA in a bid to ease traffic congestion and create new transit routes for the future. Musk has previously shared footage of the building work around the elevator, but now, we have lift off (or, more accurately, drop down). 

It’s just the latest in a raft of projects seemingly ripped from the pages of a 1958 sci-fi magazine, alongside the electric cars that forged Musk’s place in the Silicon Valley pantheon, and the space exploration of SpaceX, which is currently set on reaching Mars

I, for one, salute our new subterranean overlord. 

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UK to ban sales of fossil fuel cars by 2040

There have been hopes that officials would charge fees for driving in specific areas (such as London’s planned zero emission zone) or institute pollution-oriented taxes, but the government wants to avoid measures that could be interpreted as punishing drivers.

Not everyone is happy with the plans. Greenpeace tells the Guardian that this plan is “miles away” from achieving its goal of rapidly cutting pollution. There need to be clean air zones, and more funding to tackle local pollution. The sales cutoff certainly won’t address car-based pollution in the short term — you won’t have incentives to ditch your car before 2040, and you could keep driving your vehicle for a while longer than that.

Still, it’s a big step. The UK is one of the world’s most important car markets, and a fossil fuel car ban there will dictate what automakers around the world do with their lineups. This won’t be particularly difficult for British brands like Aston Martin and Jaguar, some of which are already moving toward electric cars, but they will have to say goodbye to a lot of their engine work within two decades. The automotive landscape was already going to change with the rise of EVs, to be clear — the UK is just giving it a big nudge in that direction.

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