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China Toughens Smartphone Standards

China Toughens Smartphone Standards

Today in international tech news: New Chinese smartphone requirements have the industry spooked. Also: A student group from Austria says it's taking Facebook to court for failing to comply with European regulations, and a U.S.-Canada proposal falls flat at the World Conference on International Telecommunications.

By David Vranicar TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
12/05/12 8:51 AM PT

New smartphone regulations in China have caused concern among technology companies, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The regulations, which would "add a new layer of licensing and testing for smartphones," were filed to a WTO database of technical barriers to trade. They were submitted by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and match a draft law that was discussed over the summer.

Industry groups had expressed concern at the time. The recent submission of the regulations, which would require handset makers to ensure that pre-installed apps are in accordance with Chinese law, has further heightened anxiety.

Additionally, the regulations call for standards that could require companies to assist China's government in identifying users and require them to monitor app use.

Industry groups are worried that the regulations will require new, additional rounds of testing, and that companies could be forced to notify Beijing prior to software updates, the Journal reported. There is also concern that the regulations could have intellectual property implications by forcing manufacturers to turn over code.

China's zealousness about smartphone regulations can cause lengthy delays in product launches there. To wit, China approved Apple's iPhone 5 this week, while the phone was released in the U.S. (and much of the world) in September.

Student Group Taking Facebook to Court

This student group doesn't have a Facebook page -- it has a Facebook lawsuit.

According to The New York Times, a student group from Austria announced Tuesday that it will mount a challenge to Facebook in Irish court. It alleges that Facebook, whose European business is incorporated in Ireland, has failed to adapt its privacy policies to comply with European data protection law.

The group, Europe vs. Facebook, claims that it has been urging Facebook to change its policies for more than a year, but that the social networking giant has only met about 10 percent of its requests.

Facebook issued a statement saying that its European privacy policy had been approved by the Irish Data Protection Commission and complies with European law. "Some vocal critics" will never be satisfied with the company's policies, Facebook said.

Facebook has also drawn the ire of Germany, which in August relaunched an investigation into the company's facial recognition technology.

The plaintiff group is made up of about 10 students from the University of Vienna. It is collecting donations to pay for the litigation, which one member hypothesized will cost between US$130,000 and $380,000, depending on appeals.

US, Canada Proposal Falls Flat

A proposal brought forward by the United States and Canada to protect the Internet from new international regulations failed to pass a committee vote Tuesday.

According to Reuters, the proposal was designed to limit the International Telecommunication Union's regulations to telecom operators. The new ITU treaty, which is currently being discussed by some 150 nations at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai, should focus only on the telecom sector -- and not Internet companies such as Facebook and Google, U.S Ambassador Terry Kramer said.

This would theoretically reduce the impact of efforts by some countries, particularly Russia and others in the Middle East, to strengthen governments' power to regulate the Internet.

Europe was among those who supported the US-Canada measure.


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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