My GettingLost Blog
ABC’s Nightline Takes an Inside Look at Foxconn

Foxconn Factory

FOXCONN FACTORY

When Tim Cook took over the reins of Apple, he stated that his mission was simple: continue the legacy of Steve Jobs.  Whether it was intended or not, as he strives to accomplish that not so simple mission, he has created something total new, something we have not seen from Apple: openness.  Don’t get me wrong, the doors at 1 Infinite Loop are not going to be thrown open for everyone to come in and check out Apple’s latest wares.

But there is definitely a new vibe buzzing around Cupertino.  Just ask ABC reporter Bill Weir.  For years, Bill has been asking to go behind the gated walls of Apple to check out for himself what makes Apple tick.  You can check out one of his many requests here.  Request after request was met with denials.  Then one day, out of the blue, Bill Weir finally received the phone call he had been waiting for, an exclusive behind thescenes look at Apple.  Bill could not have booked his plane ticket to China quick enough.  Tonight, Bill Weir and Nightline will take us inside consumer electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn’s facilities in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. Below are photos from Bill’s inside look of Foxconn.

Recently, Apple has received a lot of bad press due to the alleged poor work conditions of Apple’s supply chain and their connection with Foxconn.  Even though Apple has been the primary target, they are not the only one to use Foxconn to produce their products.  Other customers of Foxconn include Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Sony and Samsung.  Since Apple is Foxconn’s biggest partner, Bill’s report focuses on Apple.  Still yet, Bill’s report is not a statement about Apple, it is a statement about the U.S. consumer and the demands and expectations we place upon companies such as Apple and Samsung to continue to develop, manufacture, and quickly produce more and more innovative products.

Enough is never enough for us.  We are constantly wanting bigger, better, and faster products.  To satisfy our needs and to keep the costs down so that an average U.S. consumer can afford the latest and greatest, someone has to pay the price.  Unfortunately, those who have to pay that price are the supply chain workers.  For those that have ever purchased a smartphone, tablet, and/or a computer, you should watch Bill’s report.  You can watch a preview Bill’s report and read about Bill’s adventure here.  It is an excellent read and worth your time. The full report will air on ABC tonight at 11:35pm Eastern Standard Time.

Apple Files A New Lawsuit Against Samsung Over Autocorrect Patent

iPhone 4S

Another week, another lawsuit.  Apple has filed a new lawsuit against their archrival Samsung in San Jose, California. In general terms, the lawsuit covers two patents: spelling and autocorrect on Apple’s iOS devices and “universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system.” Since the lawsuit was filed under seal, very little has been revealed as to what Apple is alleging other than the case is connected to the prior lawsuit filed by Apple last year. Of course, what has become standard operating procedure for Apple, the lawsuit requests a preliminary injunction.  Until the seal is lifted, it is unknown which Samsung product (or products) Apple is trying to ban this time.

German Court Denies Apple’s Request To Ban the Galaxy Tab 10.1N

Samsung

So much for waiting until February 9. Earlier today, a German Court rejected Apple’s request to ban Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1N tablet. “Samsung has shown that it is more likely than not that the patent will be revoked because of a technology that was already on the market before the intellectual property had been filed for protection,” Judge Andreas Mueller stated in issuing the court’s ruling. Apple had previously been granted an injunction banning the Galaxy Tab 10.1.  After today’s ruling, it would appear that Apple’s minor victory has become completely meaningless.  Not willing to let anything die, there is no doubt Apple will appeal.  At least you can’t say that justice is not swift when to comes to German Courts and the patent wars.

Brief Overview of the Class-Action Lawsuits Filed Against Carrier iQ

 Two class-action lawsuits have now been filed against Carrier iQ.  This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the ongoing saga regarding the rootkit that has been installed on more than one million smartphones.  One lawsuit was filed in California on behalf of four smartphone users with HTC and Samsung devices and accuses Carrier iQ, HTC, Samsung, and the wireless carrier of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, which prohibits the unauthorized interception or illegal use of electronic communications and California’s Unfair Business Practice Act.

The other lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Missouri seeking in excess of five million dollars on behalf of all U.S. residents who had smartphones containing Carrier iQ software. The lawsuit names Carrier iQ and HTC as defendants alleging that both companies violated the Federal Wiretap Act.   HTC was quick to respond stating that even though Carrier iQ is required on devices by a number of U.S. carriers, “HTC is not a customer or partner of Carrier iQ and does not receive data from the application, the company, or carriers that partner with Carrier iQ.”  Read what the lawsuits are about after the break.
 
So, now that class-action lawsuits have been filed, what exactly is going on?

We all have read the articles and have a basic understanding of what Carrier iQ, the smartphone manufactures, and wireless carriers are being accused of.  But, now that lawsuits have been filed, what does that mean to the smartphone user?  Hopefully the following brief overview will answer that question.

The following is a brief overview of the pending litigation regarding the allegations against Carrier iQ, smartphone manufactures, and wireless carriers.  It is not meant nor intended to be an all-inclusive explanation of the legal process and/or pending litigation.  Furthermore, the information provided in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.


In its simplest form as it pertains to the topic at hand, a class action is a civil court procedure under which one party, or a group of parties, who are similarly situated, may sue as representatives of a larger class. There are certain criteria that the class must meet which you can read here. Once those prerequisites have been established, the class should be certified and then allowed to proceed forward with their lawsuit. Once the class is certified, members of the class must be given notice and the opportunity to opt-out of the lawsuit.  Only the members who opt-in and become a member of the class will be bound by the judgment rendered in the lawsuit. In Federal Court, the amount in controversy must exceed five million dollars.  A perfect example is the lawsuit that was filed in Missouri.  The attorneys who filed the lawsuit limited the class to those who own a HTC smartphone that has Carrier iQ’s rootkit on the device.  If you are a U.S. resident and own a HTC smartphone that has Carrier iQ’s rootkit on it, then you are a potential class member of the lawsuit. In regards to the California lawsuit, if you are a California resident and own a HTC or Samsung smartphone that has Carrier iQ’s rootkit on it, then you are a potential class member of that lawsuit.


Basically, the lawsuit filed in the Eastern District Federal Court of Missouri is alleging that Carrier iQ embedded a rootkit on HTC’s smartphones that logs and transmits in real time the location of the phone and everything that you do on the phone to Carrier iQ, HTC, and/or the wireless carrier which violates Federal Wiretap Act.  (The lawsuit specifically names AT&T and Sprint, but did not list them as defendants) The lawsuit further alleges that this is being done without the user’s permission.


In addition to proving the allegations that data is being transmitted, the class is also going to have to prove that what the defendants transmitted is a violation of the Federal Wiretap Act.  Proving that Carrier iQ’s rootkit is logging and transmitting data is actually the easy part.  In fact, it appears thatTrevor Eckhart has already proved it.  Still yet, experts will need to be retained and numerous experiments will have to be performed to establish that the rootkit is doing what is being alleged.  The next step is the difficult step: if Carrier iQ’s rootkit is indeed logging and transmitting in real time the location of the phone and everything that is being done on the phone without the owner’s permission, does it violate the Federal Wiretap Act?  That leads us to the next question:


The
 Federal 
Wiretap 
Act, as
 amended
 by 
the 
Electronic 
Communications 
Privacy
 Act,
 protects
 the
 privacy
 of
 wire,
 oral,
 and
 electronic
 communications.
 “Electronic
 communication”
 is
 defined
 as
 “any
 transfer
 of
 signs,
 signals,
 writing,
images,
sounds,
data,
or 
intelligence
 of
 any
 nature
 transmitted
 in
 whole
 or
 in
 part
 by
 a
 wire,
 radio,
 electromagnetic,
 photoelectronic
 or
 photooptical
 system…” (18 U.S.C. § 2510 et. seq. – you can read the full act here) Clearly, a smartphone transmits electronic communications that is protected by the Federal Wiretap Act.

In regards to the lawsuit, the class is alleging that Carrier iQ and HTC violated several sections of the Federal Wiretap Act.  Specifically, they are alleging that Carrier iQ and HTC , “…intentionally disclosed, or endeavored to disclose, to other person the contents of wire, oral, or electronic communications, which were intercepted” by Carrier iQ and HTC without the consent of the user.

There are two exceptions that allow disclosure of the data collected.  The first exception states that:

“[I]t shall not be unlawful under this chapter for an…electronic communication service, whose facilities are used in the transmission of a[n]…electronic communication, to intercept, disclose, or use that communication in the normal course of his employment while engaged in any activity which is a necessary incident to the rendition of his service or to the protection of the rights and property of the provider of the service.” 
(18 U.S.C. § 2511)

In other words, what is anticipated that HTC will argue, is that they used Carrier iQ to obtain data to “protect the right and property” of the service that they were providing.

The second exception is for disclosure with the consent of one of the parties.  Yep, you guessed it; HTC and the wireless carrier will testify that they consented.

Still yet, even without them consenting, do you remember that very long and very small print contract you did not read before signing when you purchased your smartphone?  By signing it, you consented.  You might want to go back and read your contract.  An AT&T contract states that they may obtain data from your phone to be “used for a variety of purposes such as scientific and marketing research and services such as vehicle traffic volume monitoring.” The contract also states that in regards to data collected,  “your personal information has been removed or obscured.”


That question really is the heart of the lawsuit.  What, exactly, are your damages?  Did Carrier iQ and HTC violate your privacy?  If so, what harm came to you? If you are able to prove that you were harmed, what is a reasonable compensation?  According to the attorneys that filed the lawsuit, reasonable damages include the following per the Federal Wiretap Act:

“In an action under this section, appropriate relief includes — … (2) damages under subsection (c) and punitive damages in appropriate cases; and (3) a reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred … [T]he court may assess as damages whichever is the greater of – (A) the sum of the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff and any profits made by the violator as a result of the violation; or (B) statutory damages of whichever is the greater of $100 a day for each violation or $10,000.”

The key word that stands out is that the court “may” assess damages.  As stated above, among other things, the class is going to have to prove that they were actually harmed by Carrier iQ and HTC violating the Federal Wiretap Act.  This will be a difficult task.  Even though Trevor Eckhart has demonstrated that the data us being transmitted, per the AT&T contract, there has not been any evidence that your personal information has not been removed or obscured. If they are not able to prove damages, there really is no point in filing a class-action lawsuit.

It is anticipated that this matter will not be resolved any time soon and that several more lawsuits will be filed that will include other smartphone manufactures.  In the short term, hopefully the smartphone manufactures will stop logging and transmitting every keystroke from your phone.  Tell us what you think of the lawsuits in the comments below.