ACLU Complaint Claims "Slow" Android Updates are Endangering People
April 22, 2013 2:01 PM
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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. (
) 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. (
) and Verizon Wireless -- jointly owned by Verizon Communications Inc. (
) and Vodafone Group Plc. (
). But it also accuses Sprint Nextel Corp. (
) and Deutsche Telekom AG's (
) 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."
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.
Professor Travis Breaux
, "There are standard practices for testing and evaluating patches. Microsoft does this all the time."
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
4/22/2013 2:59:02 PM
It's dangerous to our personal info. Some malware can sneak into phones through vulnerabilities, and an update can fix those.
Where in 2.2 and previous (#15 in the list) that would allow someone to access your info in your contact list. AT&T delayed the update for the Samsung Captivate (my last phone with AT&T) from 2.1 to 2.2 for over 6 months, and the update to 2.3 for over 8 months after that. 2.3 was already out and available to others while I was still running 2.1.
The delays were specifically because they had trouble completely locking down tethering. They could disable it, but an app could be written to enable it without AT&T knowing. Because of their greed, my contact info was vulnerable for over a year longer than it should have been.
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