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In the least surprising news of the week, lawyers have already filed a class action lawsuit against Apple and Samsung, following revelations this week that the radiation emitted by smartphones from both manufacturers exceed safety standards — at least according to tests commissioned by the Chicago Tribune.

The tests, reported the newspaper:
"conducted according to federal guidelines at an accredited lab," found that "radio-frequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 — one of the most popular smartphones ever sold — measured over the legal safety limit and more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own testing."
Meanwhile, "the three Samsung phones tested by the Tribune," met safety limits at all distances except 2mm from the body, "to represent a device being used while in a pocket," at which point "the exposures measured well over the standard."

The lawsuit was filed on Friday [August 23] in the the Northern District of California, despite assurances that the products are safe, the lawsuit claims:
"recent testing of the defendants' products shows that the potential exposure for an owner carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket was over the exposure limit, sometimes far exceeding it — in some instances by 500%."
The lawsuit sets out the marketing assurances as to the safety and use cases of the devices, seeking to show that if the devices are used as recommended, then this latest testing puts users at risk of medical harm.
"Carry your smartphone in your back pocket? Of course, say the defendants. Use your smartphone to conduct a sonogram of your unborn child in utero? That's ok too, according to Samsung."
Citing "numerous recent scientific publications," the lawsuit claims users are putting themselves at:
"increased cancer risk... genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans."
While the lawsuit sets out various studies and recommendations, it is clearly reliant on the testing performed by California's RF Exposure Lab for the Chicago Tribune. Findings which have promoted the FCC to confirm it will conduct its own testing "over the coming months." You're getting the sense of urgency here.

There is no reason to panic. Smartphones are significantly safer than they used to be, and the manufacturers have taken issue with the test protocols used in this instance — Apple described those as "inaccurate due to the test setup not being in accordance with procedures necessary to properly assess the iPhone models."

There is also significant debate as to what the test results actually mean in practice. Phones behave differently when held than when left "free," which is why some advice has been not to make calls using phones left in pockets close to the body.

The Chicago Tribune acknowledges that its testing:
"was not meant to rank phone models for safety — nor is it possible to know whether any of the cellphones that tested above limits could cause harm. Two of the phone manufacturers, including Apple, disputed the Tribune's results, saying the lab used by the newspaper had not tested the phones the same way they do."
There are no reported medically established links between cellphones and cancer.

But the news will run and the lawyers will file. In this instance, the defendants are being sued for "negligence, breach of warranty, consumer fraud and unjust enrichment, seeking actual damages, the costs of medical monitoring, restitution and injunctive relief."

If the phones have breached safety standards and manufacturer reported test results, that's bad news for consumers. And what is certainly needed is more data and then significantly more information as to what the implications might be.

The Chicago Tribune makes the same point:
"The results of the investigation contribute to an ongoing debate about the possible risks posed by radio frequency radiation from cellphones, and they offer evidence that existing federal standards may not be adequate to protect the public."
In the meantime, expect more lawsuits to follow.
About the Author:
Zak Doffman is the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers, a provider of video surveillance and analytics technologies to security and defense agencies as well as commercial organizations.