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."
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The Wrong Direction with the Blame Game
4/23/2013 11:15:12 AM
It should be the responsibility of the manufacturer to make sure that they release updates on a regular basis, not the telecom company that uses them. If Samsung does a good job at this, they should be praised and if HTC drops the ball than they should lose business because of it. It is stupid to have Google develop an operating system that gets put on hardware by the manufacturer and then updates are supposed to be tested by the carrier instead of the company that built the damn phone.
The only reason I can think of that this isn't the way things are right now is that the carriers are so used to making extra money by pre-bundling their own crap into a phone that they don't want to possibly give up that revenue by putting the burden of updates on the shoulders of their manufacturers. And before you say that a manufacturer could roll out a bad update, this is no more or less possible than if your carrier were to roll out the update themselves. In my mind, the manufacturers know their phones better than anyone else and are more likely to find bugs and fix them quickly in order to support their product than a carrier is to "Fix something that isn't broken.".
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