STLR Link Roundup – March 6, 2012

F.C.C. Backs Consumers in Unlocking Cellphones

The F.C.C. announced that it supports unlocking of cellphones for consumers not bound by a service agreement. Under a ruling from last fall by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress, unlocking cellphones would be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Circumvention of Technological Protection Measures. R. David Edleman, an Obama administration adviser on Internet and privacy issues, said that the F.C.C.’s position was “common sense [and] crucial for protecting consumer choices…. All consumers deserve that flexibility [of changing service providers].” The Library of Congress currently stands by its position but agrees that the policy may be worth another look.


Google Reveals FBI’s Demands for Users’ Data

Google has published a “range” of times it received National Security Letters (NSL) for account information on users without warrants. The report says that Google received between 0 and 999 NSLs last year for information on between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts. Although Google was attempting to provide transparency on the use of user data, concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies restricted the tech titan from releasing exact numbers. Additionally, Google has stated that it does not believe that the FBI can use the NSLs to obtain “Gmail content, search queries, YouTube videos or user IP addresses.” Instead, it only believes that “the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records” are available to Federal investigators.


China Growing Weary of Android Platform’s Dominance

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology warned that the Chinese smartphone market was dependent on Google’s Android platform. Android controls about 86% of the Chinese smartphone market, and 70% worldwide. The risk, the Chinese government reasoned, is that even though Android is “open source” it still runs the risks of paying royalties for patent licensing or litigation. To counteract this market dominance, the white paper calls for emerging Chinese tech companies, like Huawei, ZTE and Baidu, to develop their own proprietary platform. Whether Chinese manufacturers will be able to fight in the battle of smartphone platforms remains to be seen, with the market already saturated by Apple and Google.


Europe to Fine Microsoft For Failure To Comply With Settlement Agreement

The European Union is expected to impose a large fine on Microsoft for failure to comply with a 2009 antitrust settlement that required Microsoft to give a choice of Web browsers with their Windows software. Under the 2009 settlement, Microsoft was to provide a “browser ballot” with download links to other browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Microsoft ultimately did not comply with the settlement, but apologized, stating that the failure was a “technical error.” While the amount of the fine will be revealed on Wednesday, under E.U. regulations, it can assess fines of up to $7.4 billion for this violation. This isn’t the first time the E.U. has gone after U.S. tech companies; Intel is still appealing a $1.3 billion dollar fine that was assessed last year.


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