How Apple’s app store changed our world
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
AP Technology Writer
Tuesday, July 10
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A decade ago, Apple opened a store peddling iPhone apps, unlocking the creativity of software developers and letting users truly make their mobile devices their own.
The resulting explosion of phone apps — there are now more than 2 million for the iPhone alone — has changed daily life for billions of people around the world.
It has unleashed new ways for us to work and play — and to become so distracted that we sometimes forget to look up from our screens. It has created new industries — think ride-hailing services like Uber, which would be unimaginable without mobile apps — and pumped up demand for software developers and coding schools.
But it has also opened the door to an age of technology anxiety, rife with concerns that apps are serving us a little too well and holding our attention whether we want them to or not.
IN THE BEGINNING
None of that was going on when Apple’s app store debuted 10 years ago Tuesday. At the time, mobile phones were largely a take-it-or-leave it proposition, with features programmed by their manufacturers and customization mostly limited to a choice between tinny electronic ringtones.
The iPhone itself was still in its infancy, with only 6 million devices sold during the device’s first year. Then came the App Store, which offered 500 programs users could take or leave themselves. During its first weekend, people downloaded 10 million apps — many of them games.
Apple competitors Google, Amazon and Microsoft soon launched their own app stores. Together, these companies now offer roughly 7 million apps . Apple, meanwhile, has now sold more than a billion iPhones.
THE APP ECONOMY
That app tsunami, and the riches it generated, spawned new economic opportunities. Billions of dollars flowed into startups dependent on their apps, from Uber to Snapchat to Spotify to game makers like Angry Birds creator Rovio. Opportunities for software developers blossomed as well.
Apple perhaps benefited most of all. Its “free” apps usually display advertising or make money from subscriptions or other in-app purchases, while others charge users to download. Apple takes a cut of this action, sometimes as much as 30 percent.
The app store is now the fastest growing part of Apple’s business. Together with other Apple services, the app store generated $33 billion in revenue over the year that ended in March. The company says it has paid out more than $100 billion to developers during the past decade.
THE OTHER SIDE OF APPS
For all the possibilities apps have allowed, there’s also a dark side.
The Center for Humane Technology, an advocacy group formed by early employees of Google and Facebook, charges that many apps are engineered specifically to capture our attention, often to our detriment. That makes them “part of a system designed to addict us ,” the group says.
Apple says it shares similar concerns. To help, the company is adding new tools to the iPhone to track and control the usage of the most time-consuming apps.
Opinion: Cops Have Been Losing Tech Race, but That’s Changing
By Jonathan Haggerty and Arthur Rizer
A 16-year-old landed in jail last week for allegedly gunning down a man in cold blood on a road in Stockton, California.
During the same time, Terry Emerson found himself behind bars after Stockton police found three illegal handguns in his car during a traffic stop.
These events, while unfortunate, would not be out of the ordinary for an area that has historically struggled with crime. Of particular interest, however, is how these men were tracked: using a police surveillance drone.
In the pop culture of decades past, criminals always had the edge. Barney Fife caricatures would lose to criminals wielding Tommy guns, and John Dillinger-style gangsters handily evaded chase in their souped-up getaway cars. Indeed, at least in the opinions of law enforcement representatives, the technical balance of power has traditionally favored the bad guys.
But in this brave new world of drones, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, police officers could soon gain the advantage. And though this trend doesn’t necessarily foreshadow some dystopian police state, given cops’ checkered history with Americans’ constitutional rights, civil liberties advocates will have to play a crucial role in balancing the scales of power between officer and citizen.
Back in July 2016, when the Dallas Police Department sent in a police robot rigged with C4 to take out the shooter who killed five officers and injured seven others, as well as two civilians, it marked the first time police had used a bomb robot to kill someone. The department had obtained the robot through the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which allows law enforcement agencies to buy surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense. By 2016, state and local law enforcement agencies across the country had acquired 628 of these robots.
Today, Taser International Inc. is exploring how to outfit drones with cameras and stun guns. The company has held discussions with police officials about deploying these devices for law-enforcement work. Drones aren’t limited to larger departments, either; even smaller law enforcement agencies are readily using this technology.
Launching robots from self-driving cars sounds like something straight out of Bruce Wayne’s Batcave, but autonomous police vehicles are not a distant reality. Taser Inc. has also received inquiries into the feasibility of deploying bots from autonomous police vehicles.
And while Robocop will not be kicking in doors on no-knock warrants any time soon, the idea is in the works. The Knightscope K5 is a fully-autonomous surveillance bot with facial recognition and license-plate-scanning ability. It can capture audio and video, test the air for chemicals and distinguish “suspicious activities” from normal behavior. The K5 doesn’t use weapons, but a new line of “mechanical officers” could breach doors and hold live weapons. The Greensboro Police Department in North Carolina claims the department brings in 60 calls per year for which these robots may be suited.
The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the criminal justice system, interviewed criminal justice and technology experts who note that this emerging technology could drastically change policing. Bernard Levin, co-author of 2011’s “The Future of Policing,” anticipates that drones and ubiquitous traffic cameras could one day determine the identity of a bank robber in minutes. And catching him would be just as easy. “With fully autonomous cars and highways all interconnected, roads and vehicles could simply be powered off,” Levin told The Marshall Project. Alternatively, authorities could disable the suspect’s getaway car remotely.
The challenge of this new era of police technology will be to respect civil liberties and maximize the good applications of emerging tech while minimizing its scarier uses. A robot with facial-recognition technology could deliver a phone and a pizza to an armed man on a freeway overpass threatening suicide, but it could also be used to surveil illegally innocent civilians. Civil libertarians are right to worry about the depersonalization effects of robots or drones operated by remote officers. In one case gone wrong, a police robot burned down a Tennessee mobile home when it dropped tear-gas grenades in the living room — one of which exploded, engulfing the home in flames.
Of course, a skeptic of the cops-winning-the-tech-arms-race narrative could argue that any enterprising criminal can use the same technologies that police departments are prototyping. But the average criminal doesn’t have access to nearly the same quantity or quality of tools that some departments are acquiring. Emerging technologies thus have the potential to shift drastically the capabilities of police departments vis-a-vis everyday Americans.
Indeed, Terry Emerson and the murder suspect from Stockton lacked the means to respond to police drone surveillance with drones of their own. Whether this is a good thing for society will depend on how well police balance the constitutional rights of citizens with their new gadgets. Citizens and communities will need to advocate for both accountability and transparency without unreasonably restricting law enforcement capabilities.
We’re far from witnessing the beginnings of a Hunger Games-style totalitarian future, but that doesn’t give law enforcement carte blanche to use powerful technologies however they prefer. In a world of high-tech cops, guarding our civil liberties is more important than ever.
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Arthur Rizer is the director of criminal justice policy at the R Street Institute. Jonathan Haggerty is a criminal justice policy associate with the R Street Institute. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.
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