Do Not Buy a Cell Phone Jammer, Even if It Is Incredibly Tempting

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 6 2012 4:55 PM

Do Not Buy a Cell Phone Jammer, Even if It Is Incredibly Tempting

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A passenger on a Beijing bus chats on his phone.

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday, Future Tense looked at people who use cell phone jammers to impose quiet on their commutes. In response to the widespread coverage of the topic, the FCC today issued a strongly worded warning against both using and selling cell phone jammers. Marketing a device can result in fines or even prison time, according to the issued FAQ (PDF).

“In recent days, there have been various press reports about commuters using cell phone jammers to create a ‘quiet zone’ on buses or trains.  We caution consumers that it is against the law to use a cell or GPS jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams, or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device.  The FCC Enforcement Bureau has a zero tolerance policy in this area and will take aggressive action against violators,” says FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison in a statement.

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Wifi and GPS jammers are illegal, too. The FCC says, "Cell phone jammers do not distinguish between social or other cell phone conversations and an emergency call to a family member or a 9-1-1 emergency responder. Similarly, GPS and Wi-Fi jammers maliciously disrupt both routine and critical communications services."

A reader also points out that the company that sold the jammer used by a Philadelphia man might not feel strongly about customer privacy. Someone from Jammer-Store.com allegedly emailed the blog Philebrity to dish out information about the model he purchased, the date the sale was made, and more.

So, even if the guy sitting next to you on the subway won’t stop talking about his most recent trip to the dermatologist, resist the urge to zap his conversation.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.