Few days ago I run into an article on Wired talking about a new App released by Tawkon that is providing information on the level of radiation you have been exposed during the day (or week, month … whatever) by using your cell phone.
The article provides an explanation of some basic terms like SAR and also some background on the potential effect of electromagnetic radiation.
I am not an expert in the field, although I have been working for several years with researchers studying SAR for cell phones and taking care of the scientific communications, so I do not want to comment on the potential damage, if any, resulting from exposure to cell phone radiation.
What I am interested in is the thin line existing between data and information. Unfortunately, most of the time we tend to mix the two, we perceive data as information and this is misleading.
In this specific case Tawcon App is measuring the electromagnetic field of your cell phone taking data from the cell phone chips (your cell phone has to know what kind of power to use to send signals to the remote antenna) and applies an algorithm to calculate the cumulative effects. However, there is no scientific proof indicating that electromagnetic radiations have a cumulative effect on bio-material (that is your head..) and the cell phone does not know how you are using it (e.g. you may have it in contact always on the left ear, sometimes you switch ear, sometimes it is not in contact at all …).
Hence, the data accumulated are basically meaningless. Tawcon is careful to state that the apps is just to warn you of the use of your cell phone and it is up to you to decide if that usage level is too much (too dangerous). But if the data are meaningless, what actually is the information provided? Zilch!
What is wrong, in my opinion, is that by providing data we create a perception that does not correspond to a scientific fact. And this goes both ways. You may scare people, or you may provide a false sense of assurance.
I guess this is one of the big problems we have always faced, but in the Internet age with the abundance of data the risk of being misled is even greater.