Print 75 comment(s) - last by Xplorer4x4.. on Apr 29 at 2:27 PM

ACLU blames carriers is demanding a full investigation of the issue

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took the unusual step of injecting itself into the smartphone discussion, asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate America's top carriers over claims of Android abuse.

According to the ACLU, Google Inc. (GOOG) regularly puts out patches and upgrades to its Android operating system -- the world's most used smartphone operating system.    But in its 17-page report, it accuses America's top wireless carriers of recklessly endangering consumers by not rolling out updates fast enough.

The report calls out both of America's top two carriers, AT&T, Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless -- jointly owned by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD).  But it also accuses Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA of contributing to the problem, as well.

The ACLU wants the FTC to force carriers either to offer customers refunds or to force them to provide warnings that they are inadequately protecting customers.  The advocacy admits that it is unusual for it to look to protect consumers (which is typically the job of other more specialized advocacies), but it said in this case that the security risks from the carrier negligence could be used to justify Orwellian new federal laws -- like the controversial CISPA bill that recently passed the House.

ACLU lawyer Chris Soghoian, who authored and submitted the complaint last Tuesday, comments, "This is part of our attempt to reframe the cybersecurity agenda,.  Before violating anyone's privacy, the government should first be addressing the low-hanging fruit that everyone can agree on."

Android smartphones
The ACLU is targeting America's top carriers for sluggish Android updates.
[Image Source: Android and Me]

While the report may echo the frustrations of many Android users, it was met with scorn and derision by figures in the telecom industry.  Verizon responded that it releases patches and updates "as quickly as possible", but that it must commit "rigorous testing" before any release.  Carriers argue that the nature of Android -- which allows both OEMs and carriers to modify or disable certain functionality (e.g. tethering) -- makes testing a slower and more arduous process.  

They argue that rushed updates could "break" smartphones causing them to gobble data unnecessarily, be unable to run apps, or be unable to make calls.  Indeed this has happened on occasion in the past.

But not everyone is buying that excuse.  Carnegie Mellon Univ. Computer Science Professor Travis Breaux comments, "There are standard practices for testing and evaluating patches.  Microsoft does this all the time."

Sources: ACLU [complaint], AP

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: annoyance
By hubb1e on 4/22/2013 2:48:57 PM , Rating: 1
By that time the sandwich had melted. I'm getting pretty annoyed by the wait for updates. It shouldn't be this hard. The OS has gotten too fragmented.

RE: annoyance
By retrospooty on 4/22/2013 3:06:26 PM , Rating: 4
" The OS has gotten too fragmented"

It has nothing to do with the OS being fragmented. Its the carriers and manufacturers not putting any importance on it. At least its better now than it used to be... But definitely a weak point.

RE: annoyance
By Nortel on 4/22/2013 3:15:41 PM , Rating: 5
Okay, lets say you bought a Dell PC and MS puts out a whole series of 0 day vulnerability fixes in addition to some new features. If you had to wait for these updates to be "Dell Approved", before actually getting them, everyone would revolt. The huge layer between Google and phone is your carrier; acting as the court jester of authority.

RE: annoyance
By retrospooty on 4/22/13, Rating: -1
RE: annoyance
By tayb on 4/22/2013 5:51:14 PM , Rating: 5
Not only that but also most Android phones are loaded with junkware before you even turn it on. Crap skins, crap UI additions, and applications that you can't remove. Unlike Windows there is no such thing as a 'fresh install.' One of the few things Apple has gotten 10000% right is the 'factory reset' that is so simple and so easy to use.

I reiterate my previous post, Android is a hot mess unless you get a Google branded device.

RE: annoyance
By BRB29 on 4/22/2013 5:55:44 PM , Rating: 2
like a Nexus phone with OTA update and stock Android :)
except without the OTA update if you have verizon :(

Screw those suckers! i still have unlimited bandwidth and I will stream netflix all day on 4G!!!

RE: annoyance
By Xplorer4x4 on 4/29/2013 2:27:44 PM , Rating: 2
Screw those suckers! i still have unlimited bandwidth and I will stream netflix all day on 4G!!!

Yep give them even more excuses for killing unlimited data. That's the way! [/sarcasm]

RE: annoyance
By RjBass on 4/22/2013 6:02:53 PM , Rating: 2
Ehh, I can see you point, but I have been using Samsung Android phones for a few years now, and the first thing I do with all of them is flash them to a stock version of Android, and update it to the latest version as needed. Granted not everybody can do this, and not all phones are capable of doing this, but so far it has been easy with my Galaxy S1, Galaxy S Infuse, and Galaxy Note II.

RE: annoyance
By bug77 on 4/23/2013 6:00:28 AM , Rating: 2
Not only that but also most Android phones are loaded with junkware before you even turn it on. Crap skins, crap UI additions, and applications that you can't remove. Unlike Windows there is no such thing as a 'fresh install.'

You can turn off anything you want, stock apps/junkware included, since ICS. Reset to factory default has been there for ages. Granted, on branded phones it restores the junkware, too, but you can turn those off again.

RE: annoyance
By Neodude007 on 4/22/2013 3:17:08 PM , Rating: 2
While this is mostly true (it is not an OS issue) it is partly a device issue. Ghetto low end devices can't run the newer 4+ versions of the OS so they will simply never get updated. That contributes a fairly large amount to devices not getting updates since they cannot handle it. Just a drawback of being open :(

RE: annoyance
By wifiwolf on 4/22/2013 5:09:41 PM , Rating: 2
My ghetto galaxy note is waiting for Jelly bean for 1 year. Probably not even going to happen anymore. If they don't want to give major updates, at least security updates or enable advanced users to use repositories without voiding warranty.

RE: annoyance
By RjBass on 4/22/2013 6:04:44 PM , Rating: 2
My wife has the Galaxy Note I and has Jellybean. Got it from AT&T too, until we flashed it to the OEM version.

RE: annoyance
By wifiwolf on 4/23/2013 5:28:02 PM , Rating: 2
That's the problem. some get it and some don't. Not because of manufacturers but the carriers fault.

RE: annoyance
By Samus on 4/23/2013 11:57:59 AM , Rating: 2
The ACLU clearly sees the lack of updates as a marketing ploy to move newer handsets. Carriers don't make money updating old hardware, so there is no incentive for them to do so.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki