BlogTV: Telephone Locks

Disinfotainment is occasionally lucky to capture video of recent inventions in Japan. New technological devices can provide an insight into social problems and conditions, the way the inventor solves the problem reveals much about that culture’s mindset. Unfortunately, it also shows us their blind spots, as this news segment from FujiTV (4min38sec, Japanese and English subtitles) will reveal. I’ll skip most of the translation since English subtitles are available, but there are Japanese language points of interest for students as well.

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Japan has always had the reputation as a safe place where nobody even has to lock their doors and windows. But Japan’s burglary rate has increased 30% over the last decade. The newspapers and TV news are full of stories about gangs of foreigners that have learned to pick common Japanese locks, and can burglarize apartments at will. Some of this media coverage is outright racism against lower-class foreign residents, but regardless of the reasons, many households are rushing to upgrade their locks and security systems.

This video announces the latest security system by NTT DoCoMo, a door lock operated by keitai denwa, your cel phone. And what a system it is. You can activate the lock either by remote control, or by dialing on your cel phone. I can immediately see problems here. The lock can be accessed from the outside by anyone with a cel phone, you’re merely trading one security problem for another. You’re betting that there are fewer phone hackers than lockpickers. The announcer describes the lock as the kagi-ana no nai kagi, the keyholeless lock, it cannot be accessed from the outside. But this could also be a problem, I hope it has a battery so you can still activate the lock in a power failure, fire, or earthquake. But what concerns me more is the privacy aspects. Your phone is creating a complete database of every time you leave your house. I’m not sure I want this data collected. Advanced versions of the system have video cameras accessible by cel phone. The system may not stop a burglar from getting in the window, but the motion detectors will trigger the cameras, and conveniently email you an image of the burglar. These cameras will become attractive nuisances for hackers, especially since they are marketing these security systems to single women that live alone. Somehow I forsee trouble.

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