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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. (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



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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
quote:
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
quote:
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.


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