Tag Archives: Android

EU Files Charges Against Google For Market Abuse, Antitrust Violations

On Wednesday, the European Commission sent a Statement of Objections to Google, claiming that the company has abused its dominant position in the market place, and has manipulated the operating systems on Android devices to create favor for Google’s Apps.

A statement from the Commission claimed that Google has infringed on EU antitrust rules by stifling competition and harming consumers in the European Economic Area through the practice of “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union Commissioner in charge of competition policy, released a statement saying that the Commission wants to ensure that the EU’s antitrust rules are being followed.

The Commission’s objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation,” Vestager said.

Vestager added that she is concerned Google “has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”  

“Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary,” Vestager said. “However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”

In an investigation the Commission started in Nov. 2010, it came to the conclusion that Google “gives systematic favorable treatment to its comparison shopping product,” called “Google Shopping,” on its search results pages, by “showing Google Shopping more prominently on the screen.”

In addition to the charges regarding market abuse, the EU has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s involvement with the operating system on Android devices.

The Commission noted that since 2005, Google has “led development of the Android mobile operating system,” which has resulted in smartphone and tablet manufacturers who use the Android operating system entering into agreements with Google to “obtain the right to install Google’s applications on their Android devices.

According to the Commission, the investigation will focus on “whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices.”

Vestager said that because smartphones and tablets “play an increasing role in many people’s daily lives,” she wants to make sure the markets in Europe “can flourish without anticompetitive constraints imposed by any company.”

RT noted that companies such as Microsoft, TripAdvisor, and Streetmap have also made antitrust allegations against Google, claiming that “it uses its search engine to promote its own products, giving an unfair advantage over its competitors.”

Google released a statement on Wednesday, in response to the European Commission’s questions about Google’s partner agreements. The company highlighted the fact that all partner agreements are voluntary, and that while Android devices can be used without Google, the company’s Apps “provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem.”

Google has 10 weeks to respond to the Statement of Objections, and it has the option to challenge the Commission in court.

The New York Times reported that if Google is found guilty of the charges, the Commission would have the option to levy a fine that “could exceed €6 billion,” which is about 10 percent of Google’s most recent annual revenue, and could be the “largest single fine yet levied in such a case.”

FBI Director: We Need A “Regulatory Or Legislative Fix” To Battle Phone Encryption

Washington, DC- Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey gave a speech at Washington’s Brookings Institution, warning against the consequences of smartphone encryption and discussing the disconnect between technology advancements and law enforcement abilities.

Comey titled the disconnect “Going Dark”, saying that although law enforcement has the authority to access electronic communications through court orders, certain advancements have obstructed agencies from access. With new technology “comes a desire to protect our privacy and our data—you want to share your lives with the people you choose. I sure do,” said Comey. “But the FBI has a sworn duty to keep every American safe from crime and terrorism, and technology has become the tool of choice for some very dangerous people.”

Comey was mainly referring to advancements including Apple’s iOS 8 operating system that allows users to lock their phones with a passcode that neither Apple nor the federal government can bypass. Google has also recently announced similar encryption plans on Android devices. “Encryption is nothing new. But the challenge to law enforcement and national security officials is markedly worse, with recent default encryption settings and encrypted devices and networks- all designed to increase security and privacy,” said Comey.

“In the past, conducting electronic surveillance was more straightforward,” said Comey. “We identified a target phone being used by a bad guy, with a single carrier. We obtained a court order for a wiretap, and, under the supervision of a judge, we collected the evidence we needed for prosecution.”

Today, said Comey, there are many more networks, apps and providers. “We have laptops, smartphones, and tablets. We take them to work and to school, from the soccer field to Starbucks, over many networks, using any number of apps. And so do those conspiring to harm us.”

Comey said the public’s presumption that the FBI has “phenomenal capabilities to access any information at any time—that we can get what we want, when we want it, by flipping some sort of switch” is not true, and despite following the rule of law it remains difficult to access important evidence.

Comey went on to cite examples of when accessing data such as text messages has helped law enforcement solve crimes. He noted a case in Louisiana when a sexual predator murdered a 12-year-old boy, and using the data from both phones provided enough evidence to convict the man. He also discussed a case in California where text messages revealed that a 2-year-old’s murder had been covered up by the child’s parents.

Comey said that such access can also vindicate innocent people, describing a case of several teens accused of rape being exonerated because of cell phone video evidence.

“Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction—in a direction of fear and mistrust. It is time to have open and honest debates about liberty and security,” said Comey. “Some have suggested there is a conflict between liberty and security. I disagree. At our best, we in law enforcement, national security, and public safety are looking for security that enhances liberty. When a city posts police officers at a dangerous playground, security has promoted liberty—the freedom to let a child play without fear.”

Comey said that solutions to the “Going Dark” issue involves cooperation from companies such as Apple and Google “so that criminals around the world cannot seek safe haven for lawless conduct. We need to find common ground.”

“We understand the private sector’s need to remain competitive in the global marketplace. And it isn’t our intent to stifle innovation or undermine U.S. companies. But we have to find a way to help these companies understand what we need, why we need it, and how they can help, while still protecting privacy rights and providing network security and innovation. We need our private sector partners to take a step back, to pause, and to consider changing course.”

“We also need a regulatory or legislative fix to create a level playing field,” Comey said, “so that all communication service providers are held to the same standard and so that those of us in law enforcement, national security, and public safety can continue to do the job you have entrusted us to do, in the way you would want us to.”

Fake Cell Phone Towers Intercepting Android and iOS Devices

Following revelations from Edward Snowden, which showed that the government was compromising the cell phone activity of innocent Americans, technology companies have worked to create devices that are beyond the government’s reach. The creation of a device called the CryptoPhone 500 shed light on the amount of data that was being intercepted from other devices, using fake cell phone towers.

According to Popular Science, the CryptoPhone 500 is a device which features high-powered encryption and is “marketed in the U.S. by ESD America and built on top of an unassuming Samsung Galaxy SIII body.”

The CEO of ESD America, Les Goldsmith, said that the CryptoPhone 500 runs a customized version of Android that “removes 468 vulnerabilities that his engineering team found in the stock installation of the OS.”

Goldsmith said that his mobile security team found that the version of the Android OS, which comes on the standard Samsung Galaxy SIII, “leaks data to parts unknown 80-90 times every hour.”

Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” said Goldsmith.  “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip.

Regarding the origin of these interceptors, Goldsmith said that they are still unknown. He mentioned that what his team found suspicious was the fact that “a lot of these interceptors are right on top of U.S. military bases.”  

“So we begin to wonder – are some of them U.S. government interceptors?  Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?” said Goldsmith.  “Whose interceptor is it?  Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases?  Is it just the U.S. military, or are they foreign governments doing it?”

According to We Live Security, the existence of these interceptors “can only be seen on specialized devices, such as the custom Android security OS used by CryptoPhone, which includes various security features – including ‘baseband attack detection.'”

Popular Science maintained that the Interceptors found in the U.S. vary widely in expense and sophistication, and that “whether your phone uses Android or iOS, it also has a second operating system that runs on a part of the phone called a baseband processor.

This baseband processor worked as a “communications middleman” between the phone and the cell towers. A senior security consultant at Matasano Security, Mathew Rowley, described the baseband processor as “one of the more difficult things to get into or even communicate with.”