The Feds Try To End the Debate Over 5G Health Concerns—Data Sheet

August 9, 2019, 11:18 AM UTC

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It’s the question everyone wants to go away: are 5G wireless networks safe or are they a risk to human health?

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration tried to put the question to bed once more. The FCC announced it would hold its radio frequency exposure limits for cell phones, cellular towers, and other wireless gear at current levels. The use of some new frequencies as part of the 5G rollout did not change the situation, the agency said. After a review of the scientific record and consultations with health agencies, “we find it appropriate to maintain the existing radio frequency limits, which are among the most stringent in the world for cell phones,” Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, said. That came backed with excerpted comments from Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The “available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or under the current limit” and “[n]o changes to the current standards are warranted at this time,” Shuren explained in a letter cited in part by the FCC.

That’s also the same conclusion that the scientific association the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, came to back in February, when it completed a review of recommended exposure limits and also agreed to maintain them at current levels.

But the announcements are unlikely to end the debate. Worriers can point to a few studies and the decision by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify cellular radio waves as a possible carcinogen back in 2011. And countries like Belgium and Switzerland have delayed 5G networks over health concerns. On the other side, research from the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, among others, have concluded there are no risks. And so round it goes. The WHO has a vast, new study underway that, perhaps, will offer a more definitive result. For a truly deep dive, check out the page maintained by the National Cancer Institute on cell phones and cancer research.


Following Monday’s column on the rollout of Apple’s new credit card, people have started receiving email invitations to apply from Apple. But not everyone has to wait. If you want to apply without an invite, open the Wallet app on your iPhone and press the plus sign to add a new card. Hit continue on the next screen and a screen opens with several options for new cards, including Apple Card. It takes about two minutes to complete the process. Then you’re ready to start your weekend spending spree. Have a good one!

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman



Ask for forgiveness. A privacy lawsuit against Facebook over the collection of users' biometric data may proceed, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled on Thursday. Users in Illinois sued in 2015 alleging Facebook's collection and tagging of photos violated the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Fighting back. Republican campaigns including the Trump election effort said they were freezing further spending on Twitter to protest the social network's treatment of the account of Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign. Twitter temporarily locked the McConnell account after a video was shared that included protestors making verbal threats.

Fighting back, the sequel. After getting hit by various U.S. sanctions, Chinese electronics giant Huawei unveiled its own smartphone operating system called HarmonyOS. The idea is to create an alternative to Google's Android in case Huawei loses access to the software or needed updates. Still no word from the Trump administration on whether any American companies will be granted waivers to transact with Huawei, as the president promised back in June.

Addition by addition. Since chipmaker Broadcom was blocked from buying Qualcomm last year, CEO Hock Tan has turned his acquisitive eye on software companies. On Thursday, Tan announced his latest deal, agreeing to pay almost $11 billion for Symantec’s enterprise business. The unit, which sells cybersecurity apps and services to companies and other large organizations, had revenue of $2.3 billion in its most recent fiscal year.

A real clunker. On Wall Street, Uber’s stock tanked after the company reported dismal second-quarter earnings that missed analyst expectations with widening losses. Revenue rose 14% to $3.17 billion, less than analysts expected. Uber's stock price, which was already down 5% from its IPO, was down 9% in premarket trading on Friday.


A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:

Was E-mail a Mistake? (The New Yorker)
The mathematics of distributed systems suggests that meetings might be better.

The Secret History of ‘Easter Eggs’ (The New York Times)
Yes, Google, Tesla, Amazon and others are still hiding quirky software surprises in their products, mostly to give you a chuckle.

The definitive story of how a controversial Florida businessman blew up MoviePass and burned hundreds of millions (Business Insider)
A four-month investigation chronicles the rise and fall of the movie-ticket-subscription startup MoviePass. We tell the story of cofounder Stacy Spikes, who sought to shake up the tired movie-theater business by starting a subscription service.

Somerville won $10 million to open a new high school and it went downhill from there (Boston Globe Magazine)
Two MIT friends had a big idea and national and community support. Why did their plan fail?


Privacy may not be dead but it's definitely teetering on the brink in this age of "surveillance capitalism," as Harvard Biz School emeritus professor Shoshana Zuboff has named it. But can you possibly escape the watchful eyes (and ears) of the tech giants like google, facebook, Amazon, Apple and others? Bloomberg Businessweek writer Joel Stein gave it a try. In a sometimes hilarious, sometimes sobering read, Stein explains all the steps he took. It wasn't easy.

I had decades of digital exhaust to clean up. “Your data across different companies is being pulled together by data brokers and ad companies. If the government asked for it and spent some time correlating, it probably wouldn’t be that far off from what the Chinese government has,” says Rob Shavell, the co-founder of Abine Inc., a company in Cambridge, Mass. I signed up for Abine’s DeleteMe service, paying $129 a year for it to opt me out from databases run by brokers that sell my personally identifiable information. I gave DeleteMe all my current and previous home addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, and it removed me from 33 public-records crawlers—database services with names like Intelius and Spokeo, plus a whole lot of yellow pages.


Lost Your Job? Here’s What to Tell Interviewers By Anne Fisher

Yet Another Wrinkle For WeWork Investors: An Unusual IPO Structure That Would Give a Tax Advantage to Insiders By David Z. Morris

Stephanie McMahon on the Future of the WWE, the ‘Women’s Revolution,’ and Building a Community By Dale Rutledge

Exclusive: McAfee Is Acquiring NanoSec to Build Out Its Container-Focused Cloud Security Services By David Z. Morris

Samsung: The Galaxy Note 10 Has the Guts to Be Your 5G Streaming Video Game Console By Lisa Marie Segarra

Swing State Voting Systems Were Left Connected to the Internet for Months, Report Says By David Z. Morris


A beautiful addition to the Beatles' canon or a shameful and opportunistic money grab? You be the judge. Next month, on the 50th anniversary of the release of their all-time great album Abbey Road, The Beatles (or at least the two living members of the band) will issue a special 50th anniversary edition. The new release includes remixed versions of all the songs plus previously unreleased demos and outtakes. It's available for preorder on iTunes for $30, but also appears to be coming to all your favorite streaming services, too.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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