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The FTC Has Filed Suit Against AT&T For Misleading Unlimited Data

at&t

The US Federal Trade Commission (the FTC) has filed a lawsuit against AT&T saying they have mislead millions of customers with promises of unlimited data. They believe that AT&T has throttled some users’ speeds to be 90% slower than normal.

AT&T of course no longer offers unlimited data, but they have been throttling users who have used as little as 2 GB of data per month, according to the FTC.

FTC commissioner Edith Ramirez says that “AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise. The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”

The FTC has pointed towards AT&T’s older marketing material where AT&T said that unlimited really was unlimited.

You may remember that after many complaints from both customers and the FCC that Verizon scrapped their plan to throttle unlimited data users. AT&T has been throttling since 2011 however, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. If you’re an AT&T customer who is still grandfathered into an old unlimited plan, how do you feel about this?

Source: FTC

[Update 1X] T-Mobile Accused By The FTC Of Charging Customers For Fraudulent Spam Messages

t-mobile-logo-store

Update 1 At 5 PM EDT

T-Mobile has responded to the FTC’s claims on their website, saying they see the report as “unfounded and without merit.” T-Mobile CEO John Legere says that of T-Mobile, “we believe that customers should only pay for what they want and what they sign up for.”

John Legere does say that “not all of these third party providers acted responsibly — an issue the entire industry faced”, but continues to say that “the FTC’s lawsuit seeking to hold T-Mobile responsible for their acts is not only factually and legally unfounded, but also misdirected.”

Original Story Below

T-Mobile has been saying lately that they are different from the other US carriers by trying to help eliminate “pain points” in the wireless industry. Unfortunately for them, the United States Federal Trade Commission (the FTC) claims that T-Mobile knowingly charged customers for unauthorized SMS subscription services that delivered information such as horoscopes and celebrity gossip at prices up to $9.99 per month.

According to the FTC, T-Mobile collected 35 to 40 percent of the amounts charged to customers, even continuing to bill them after they discovered the charges were fraudulent. The FTC says that T-Mobile made “hundreds of millions” of dollars with these charges.

The FTC alleges that the charges were unauthorized because of the high volume of T-Mobile customers seeking refunds and that they received a high number of consumer complaints in 2012.

T-Mobile is said to have made it difficult for customers to detect these fraudulent charges, as bill summaries did not show third-party charges or recurring subscriptions. The T-Mobile bills also made it “nearly impossible for consumers to find and understand third-party subscription charges.”

After looking past a “Summary” section as well as an “Account Service Detail” section, both of which described “Usage Charges” but did not itemize those charges, a consumer might then reach the section labeled “Premium Services,” where the crammed items would be listed. 

According to the complaint, the information would be listed there in an abbreviated form, such as “8888906150BrnStorm23918,” that did not explain that the charge was for a recurring third-party subscription supposedly authorized by the consumer.”

T-Mobile has also reportedly failed to fully reimburse customers after the fraudulent charges were discovered. The FTC is asking for a court order to prevent T-Mobile from continuing to charge customers for these fraudulent charges and provide full refunds for their “ill-gotten gains.”

T-Mobile has not yet commented on the FTC’s accusations, but it’s presumable that their CEO, John Legere, will. Have you been affected by these fraudulent charges?

Source: FTC and T-Mobile

Google, FTC Officially Settles Motorola License Deal

When Google acquired Motorola it not only got the company but its patents as well. The company admitted that almost half of the $12.4 billion it paid went to acquire the intellectual property holdings of Motorola. The problem is that Motorola’s Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) dispute with the FTC was carried over to Google.

google ftc

This is why Google faced charges with the FTC for allegations that the company has backed off of commitments to license essential patents under FRAND terms. Competitors claimed that Google refused to patent licenses which are covered under FRAND and are vital in the smartphones and tablets.

A total of 25 companies and interested parties went to the FTC for assistance on this matter. They claim that Google’s refusal to allow the patents to be used was damaging the competition in the industry.

The FTC and Google have agreed on a settlement on this matter. While the settlement does not require Google to be at fault, it does make the company “abide by its commitments to license its standard-essential patents on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory or FRAND terms.” as what the FTC announced.

The FTC said in a letter addressed to those who made a public comment on the case stating that “An implementer can negotiate licensing terms without facing the threat of an injunction, but Google is not barred from responding to an implementer that misuses the protections in the order to delay rather than facilitate entering into a FRAND license. In addition, Google has recourse if an implementer refuses to take steps to obtain a FRAND license, or to enter into a license after a FRAND rate is determined. Like any other licensor, Google also has the right to seek treble damages for willful infringement.”

A summary of the FTC ruling states that “The Final Order requires Google to abide by its commitments to license its standard-essential patents on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory or FRAND terms. These standard-essential patents are needed to make popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles. The agency alleged that Google had reneged on these commitments and pursued – or threatened to pursue – injunctions and exclusion orders against companies that need to use standard-essential patents held by Google’s subsidiary, Motorola Mobility LLC (MMI), in their devices and were willing to license these patents on FRAND terms.”

via bgr

FTC And HTC Agree On Final Settlement Over Logging Software

The final settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and HTC America has been agreed upon this Tuesday which requires the smartphone manufacturer to implement various security measures. This comes after allegations that the company sold smartphones in the market with bugs that posed a risk to the privacy of consumers. The FTC announced the settlement last February and after the required public comment period has just been finalized.

htc

As part of the agreement HTC is required to come up with a comprehensive security program that will be assessed by an independent body every year for the next twenty years. The company is also required to release software patches to correct the vulnerabilities of their millions of devices.

Aside from this the company is also ordered not to make any false advertising claims or misleading statements regarding the security and privacy of consumer’s data on HTC devices. Any violation to this will incur the company a civil penalty of $16,000 per violation.

The FTC voted 3-0-1 in approving the final settlement orders.

The logging software in question is the diagnostic software CarrierIQ which was installed in millions of HTC devices with a certain code supposed to be used in testing not disabled. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said that “Because of that mistake, all of the sensitive user data logged by Carrier IQ was also written to the device’s system log, which was accessible to any third-party app with permission to read it.”

CarrierIQ is also supposedly designed to record the keystrokes of the user which is accessible to third party apps. This means that personal data such as phone numbers, call logs, messages and more can easily be gathered.

Some of the known data that can easily be gathered are

  • the list of user accounts, including email addresses and sync status for each
  • last known network and GPS locations and a limited previous history of locations
  • phone numbers from the phone log
  • SMS data, including phone numbers and encoded text
  • system logs

via engadget

Google’s Acquisition of Waze Triggers an FTC Antitrust Investigation

Less than a month after Google acquired Waze, a social mapping startup company, there are reports that the Federal Trade Commission intends to carry out an antitrust review of the deal.  According to New York Post, FTC Lawyers contacted Google expressing their intention to conduct the antitrust review of the acquisition.  The New York Post cites sources that it says ‘are very close to the situation’ but Google has declined to comment on the reports.

 Google Waze Acquisition

Wall Street Journal reports that it talked to lawyers who are familiar with the government’s antitrust investigations and apparently, FTC may have asked Google not to initiate or proceed with any integration with Waze, pending the review and investigation.  Wall Street Journal also says that because Waze’s revenue was ‘too low for FTC to automatically review it’, this is not a reason for the government body not to step in after the deal was closed to scrutinize the details of the deal, just like it intends to do.

Google beat a number of potential Waze suitors including Apple, Facebook and Microsoft to acquire Waze early this month for an undisclosed amount of between $1 billion and $1.3 billion., putting to rest speculations and rumors of acquisition of the company.  Shortly after the deal was closed, Google announced that it intended to incorporate Waze’s croudsourced traffic data into its popular Google Maps product to improve traffic prediction feature.  The Mountain View company also said that it intends to incorporate some of its own mapping technology into Waze and keep it running as an independent product from Google Maps.

At the moment, the reasons for FTC’s involvement, especially after the deal was sealed, is still unclear but there are chances that one of the companies that was eyeing Waze may have felt shortchanged and filed a complaint with FTC.  Wall Street Journal also points at Google’s acquisition of Waze, it already having a dominant mapping service used globally by billions of users every day, as what may have attracted FTC’s attention considering that Waze has 45 million app downloads at the time it was acquired.  Simply put, Google may not have really needed Waze and its move to acquire it may be viewed as a way to remove a potential competitor in the market.

Wall Street Journal reports that FTC may intend to determine whether Waze had the potential to take on Google Maps in the provision of mapping services and to find out if there is evidence that Google only acquired Waze to prevent potential competitors – Apple, Microsoft or Facebook – from buying the small company which could have stacked the odds against its Google Maps software.

Despite the impending antitrust investigation, Wall Street Journal says it is unlikely that FTC will demand that Google reverses the Waze acquisition deals since it must have undisputable proof that the acquisition was intended to undermine or damage competition providing mapping services.

Source: New York Post via Wall Street Journal

 

Google Could Face Another Antitrust Probe By The FTC

google fiber

A Google antitrust probe could be underway again. Bloomberg claims that new investigation is being planned once more by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, an agency which Google has became so acquainted with lately in terms of the issue of unfair competition.

The FTC alleged that Google is using its position in the online display-advertising market to illegally shift the competition mainly into its favor, said Bloomberg. The Google antitrust probe is a follow-up of the preliminary investigation of the FTC last January which was finished without an action from the part of the agency concerned said the source.

The Probe

Currently, the government agency is said to be looking into whether the giant company is using its position in U.S. display ads to force other companies to use more of its other services or properties, which is a practice not allowed by antitrust laws. The report pointed out that the display ads industry amounts to around $17.7 billion.

A related report from TechCrunch says that Google has a share of 17.6 percent on the figure which is the majority and followed by Yahoo and Facebook. In 2012, Google’s revenue reached $2.26 billion from the display ads. Then, this 2013 the figure might spike up to $3.11 added the same source.

The previous investigation lasted for 20 months but it ended up with a settlement from both parties with Google promising to make voluntary changes in its system, including how it handles Adwords campaign, further stated TechCrunch.

The Justice Department Approval

FTC got its blessing from the Justice Department to pursue the probe under  a condition that the department’s own antitrust division will have a separate investigation on other matters related to the issue.

The FTC Statement

The investigating agency said that it will closely monitor the markets, so if Google should engage in unlawful tying or other anticompetitive product, they will do their best to act swiftly on the matter.

Source: Bloomberg and TechCrunch

HTC America Settles With FTC On Carrier IQ And HTC Loggers Issue

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has reported that HTC America has settled with them the issue on failing to secure its mobile devices that have been shipped to consumers. Charges were previously filed against the company for failing to take reasonable steps in securing the software of its mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones which placed sensitive information of individuals at risk.

ftc htc

In the settlement agreement, HTC America will be developing and releasing a software patch to correct the vulnerability of their software. Aside from this the company will have to undergo a comprehensive security program as well as undergo independent security assessments every other year for the next 20 years.

HTC America uses a customized version of Android, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone operating system on their devices. The company’s customization allows it to differentiate itself from its competition however this is also where the problem lies.

The flawed customization practices of the company that seemed to neglect security started the problem. The company failed to follow standard security coding practices and even failed to establish a process for dealing with vulnerability reports from third parties.

The complaint against the company deals with several vulnerabilities most notably the way HTC devices handle the two logging applications Carrier IQ and HTC Logger. The insecure implementation of both apps as well as programming flaws allowed third party applications to bypass the standard Android security system.

Because of this vulnerability millions of HTC devices could easily be infected with malicious apps that could send out text messages, record audio, and even install other malicious apps without the owner even knowing about it. Personal information such as financial records, credit card numbers or calendar appointments could easily be stolen this way.

Also included in the settlement is the prohibition of HTC America to make any false or misleading statements regarding the security of their devices.

via ftc

FTC Fines Developer Of Path App $800,000 For Privacy Violations

The US FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has slapped an $800,000 fine to the developers of the Path app for illegal collection of private information from children without their parents’ consent.  Path Inc. has agreed to pay the amount and will undergo a comprehensive privacy program which will undergo an independent assessment every other year for the next twenty years. The company has also settled with the FTC the charges that it collected personal information from the address book of mobile users without their consent.

path

Path, a private social network based in San Francisco, was found to have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act otherwise known as COPPA. This was discovered after the FTC began investigation on the uploading of iPhone users address books to the company’s servers without the knowledge or consent of users.

Aside from paying the fine the company has also deleted some 3,000 accounts that belonged to minors (those 13 years old and below).

According to the FTC

“Over the years the FTC has been vigilant in responding to a long list of threats to consumer privacy, whether it’s mortgage applications thrown into open trash dumpsters, kids information culled by music fan websites, or unencrypted credit card information left vulnerable to hackers,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.  “This settlement with Path shows that no matter what new technologies emerge, the agency will continue to safeguard the privacy of Americans.”

According to David Morin, the founder and CEO of Path, they had already discovered the accounts of minors as early as February 2012 and by May 2012 had already made changes to the sign up process that detected minors. The company detected this on its own and issued the corresponding changes before the FTC investigation took place.

Morin said that the main reason minors were able to sign up is that there was no system of checks and balances in place. In his blog post he explained this further.

Today the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it reached a settlement pending court approval with Path regarding alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act (COPPA). The gist of the FTC’s complaint is this: early in Path’s history, children under the age of 13 were able to sign up for accounts. A very small number of affected accounts have since been closed by Path.

As you may know, we ask users’ their birthdays during the process of creating an account. However, there was a period of time where our system was not automatically rejecting people who indicated that they were under 13. Before the FTC reached out to us, we discovered and fixed this sign-up process qualification, and took further action by suspending any under age accounts that had mistakenly been allowed to be created.

We want to share our experience and learnings in the hope that others in our industry are reminded of the importance of making sure services are in full compliance with rules like COPPA. From a developer’s perspective, we understand the tendency to focus all attention on the process of building amazing new things. It wasn’t until we gave our account verification system a second look that we realized there was a problem. We hope our experience can help others as a reminder to be cautious and diligent.

Throughout this experience and now, we stand by our number one commitment to serve our users first.

via pcworld

Patent Case Loss in Apple vs Samsung Helping Google, Analyst Says

One plus for the technology giant Google, is that the Android operation system maker in the Apple vs Samsung lawsuit is how that decision could affect a federal antitrust investigation into Google, according to an analyst. Google is currently being investigated by the FCC (Federal Trade Commission) over some very broad antitrust claims, including Google’s potential to lock down its search and other applications on smartphones and anything that runs or will run an Android Operating System. The firm is trying to negotiate with European regulators on some different ways to change its various practices in search to make the market a lot more competitive. It’d be interesting to see the search market more competitive, seeing Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s Google fight for the top would be something interesting to see.

Now that the jury has officially determined that Apple has some very exclusive rights to some very key technologies on the smartphone, the Federal Trade Commission might rethink its position on Google’s dominance when it comes to mobile search — a part of the agency’s investigation, according to some different reports coming from the Wall Street Journal.

“Apple’s patent victory on Friday has the potential to raise the cost of Android devices or perhaps even give Apple exclusive use of certain features or designs of handsets. The Obama Administration has been active promoting tech sector competition and has particularly focused on the risk that patent lawsuits present for mobile Internet competition,” said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Guggenheim Partners research in D.C.

“So we think the prospect of Apple becoming even stronger in mobile – along with Verizon’s recent effort to rein in the power of Android and Apple by pushing Windows Mobile – should reduce the chance of the FTC deciding to impose new limits on Google’s Android business,” Gallant said.

The European Union and the Federal Trade Commission are both supposedly ready to settle with Google instead of suing the firm, Gallant and some other analysts have said. The European Union is expected to announce their settlement as early as September, which is only a week or two away and the Federal Trade Commission is expected to announce their settlement by the end of the year.

All that said, this is lawsuit is really turning out to be really good on the Google side of things. Still, while Samsung losing was by no means a good thing, it is nice to at least see some good coming out of the lawsuit on the Android side of things.

Thoughts?

source: Washington Post

Smartphone Photo Controversy Prompts Senate Inquiry

As last week closed out, the safety and security of photos stored locally on your smartphone became an issue. At first it was iPhone only however Google freely admitted that photos on an Android device (and any smartphone for that matter) are stored in such a way that apps could access them, just like they are on a computer. That’s really a fact of life more than anything.

Over the weekend we ran a story featuring a couple apps that would help you protect your photos by either hiding from the root directory or offloading them to the cloud.

More after the break
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Google’s Eric Schmidt Responds To Government Concerns Over Privacy Policy

Eric Schmidt file photo: TDG LLC

Google is in the process of changing their privacy policy. Rather than having 60+ different privacy policies that cover each of their products they’ve opted for one comprehensive policy that covers all of their products collectively.

Congressman Ed Markey, along with seven other members of congress, sent a letter to Google expressing their concern over Google’s new collective privacy policy. They are concerned over the “blanketing” of all of their services together and the sharing of user information across Google products.  Representative Markey sent a separate letter as well questioning whether or not Google’s new policy is in violation of a settlement Google made with the FTC in March of 2011.

Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt appeared on Fox Business Friday to refute the allegations from the government.  “The current criticism is a little bit misinformed,” Schmidt told Fox Business.

More after the break
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