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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 TakinYourPoints on 4/23/2013 5:14:28 PM , Rating: 2
I look at practical benchmarks, not synthetics. I do the same with my PC and I do the same with phones. AMD CPUs do better than Intels in certain synthetics, but no way I'm getting one based on how much better Intel does in nearly all practical tests.

A higher Geekbench score isn't reflected in faster browser performance or a smoother UI. I don't use things like fill tests for GPU comparisons either, even though those would show the iPhone as 5x faster. It is an irrelevant synthetic benchmark compared to a practical one that shows an entire scene.

As far as size and applications, I completely agree that it all comes down to personal preference. Color aside, I do not case for big 5" phones and the big chassis that come with them. Single-handed operation and pocketability are important to me.

I also completely understand why some people would sacrifice applications for the flexibility of Android and access to bigger hardware. I'm not faulting anyone for preferring that. The only thing I find annoying is when people lose all objectivity and say that the advantages of Android are objective advantages for everyone, and that it has no disadvantages to other platforms, both of which are ridiculous.

All platforms have tradeoffs, I've said that over and over again. Its all about deciding which tradeoffs you want to live with, even if some of those tradeoffs (the more portable iPhone chassis for example) are advantages for some.

I personally would love to see more high end Android devices in normal 4" sizes, not like the crippled GS3 Mini. Right now every high end Android device is around 5", which is limiting given that larger sizes aren't for everyone and they don't sell nearly as well as smaller devices. High end devices like the GS3 and HTC's flagships are a drop in the bucket compared to the iPhone and the numerous lower end (and smaller) Android devices out there.

Maybe size differentiation is how they can separate their high end devices from Apple's but I think it'd be worth a shot given how much people like 4" phones.

you're right. This is not android's fault, this is the carriers faults. Apple somehow got around that probably because it's not open. But I only care as what i experience as the consumer so iphone wins here.

Yup, and for years I've said that Android's biggest issue was Google giving up too much control to carriers. I wish every Android device was treated like the Nexus, it would address so many issues.

Did you even read the article? I just glanced at it again to be sure but he praised the Nexus 4. The only thing he "slammed" the Nexus 4 for is the screen not being calibrated and a little on battery life.

Yes, and I specifically said that he was talking about the display, not the phone in general.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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