Tech 2.0 for Thursday, January 23, 2014
A privacy review board says the NSA program that collects data on nearly every U.S. phone call should be shut down because it's illegal and mostly useless in fighting terrorism. This program harvests telephone numbers involved in calls, the time calls are placed and how long they last. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board says it has only found one case where the program helped authorities identified a terrorist in the last seven years. They also say that law enforcement would have found the suspect without the NSA program. The board does not have any legal power, so its recommendations won't change the government's practices. However they are in stark contrast with President Obama's legal defense of the surveillance program.
T-Mobile is getting into the finance industry to help customers. The mobile carrier announced a new service called Mobile Money by T-Mobile that offers banking services geared toward the nearly 70 million people who don't have bank accounts or have to use check-cashing services. T-Mobile Wireless customers can purchase and reload prepaid Visa debit cards at T-Mobile and Safeway stores, with little to no fees. The card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted and can be used to withdraw money from in-network ATM's without a fee. Mobile money also allows customers to direct deposit paychecks plus deposit personal and other checks by taking a picture of the check with a smartphone camera. And there is no minimum balance requirement.
NASA has an exciting and busy year ahead. The space agency has announced an ambitious set of upcoming missions for the year. The missions include the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System or CATS Instrument, which will extend satellite observations of small particles in the atmosphere. The first NASA earth science mission of 2014 launches late next month. It's a new observatory to that will provide almost global observations of rainfall and snowfall. Also two missions to the International Space Station are on tap this year. NASA will launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory in July to measure greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the SMAP mission will track water on earth in the soil.