Smartphones don’t make people smarter; in fact, a smartphone in the hands of a dumb person makes it easier for a dumb person to suffer the consequences of dumbness.
Luca Mangiarano walked into a bank in Austin Texas and handed a note to a teller: “This is a robbery, please give me all your 100’s and 50’s in a envelope and everything will be ok.” The bank employee complied. Mangiarano left the bank, hopped on an electric scooter and rolled away.
(If you haven’t yet been nearly run over by scooter or had to walk around one abandoned on a sidewalk, you soon will. There are several companies scattering their for-rent scooters around various cities. You download an app to your smartphone to rent one.)
Before the robbing the bank, nineteen-year-old Mangiarano had apparently failed to consider that the scooter he used for his escape had GPS tracking and he had provided his phone number, email address and credit card information to activate the two-wheeled vehicle. With that, police soon tracked him down.
Robbing banks is becoming an anachronism in Scandinavian countries. They lead the world in transitioning to a cashless society. Bank robberies and street muggings have declined significantly. More than half the population of Sweden – 90% of under-thirties – uses the “Swish” app. All that’s needed is the recipient’s phone number to send money. It’s so simple and ubiquitous that church-service collections and street buskers use it. When two muggers beat up a man and forced him to “Swish” them, well, you can figure out how quickly the police tracked them down.
The U.S. is behind other countries, but we’re creeping in that direction. The Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco no longer has toll booths. If you don’t have a “FasTrack” transponder in your car, a photograph of your license plate is taken and you eventually receive a bill in the mail for the toll plus a fee that is some multiple of the toll. If you drove a rental car, the bill will come from the rental company with their own exorbitant charge in addition to the toll and the fee. This is becoming the norm on toll roads and bridges around the country. If you’re fleeing from authorities, they will know where you were and when.
So what does all this have to do with Monica Lewinsky? In 1996, investigator Kenneth Starr, abetted by Brett Kavanaugh, in their years-long and often prurient investigations of the Clintons, issued a subpoena to Kramerbooks in Washington DC demanding the store’s records of purchases made by Ms. Lewinsky. Starr wanted to know what salacious book she had bought as a gift for you-know-who. The independent bookstore refused and ran up six-figure legal bills before Lewinsky and her attorneys agreed to give Starr a list of books she had purchased. This was the clarion proclamation to us all that we have no privacy, that everything we do is available for inspection.