Our original reporting on Verizon Wireless’s issues surrounding forced firmware updates have sparkedÂ controversy. As part of our consumer advocacy on the issue, we would like to post an update.
In response to our initial reporting, Verizon Media Relations insists that Verizon’s process of automatically updating phone’s firmware is safe. Verizon argues that, despite not notifying users that their device can be updated at any time (pre-sale), they are within their legal right to overwrite any portion of your phone’s software, without your consent. This includes regardless of where you bought your device from, or what manufacturer it was made by.
However, Verizon provided no assurance that there would be a backup safeguard, should the phone fail to update properly. That is a serious safety concern which we highlighted in our initial report. Verizon also insists that users are always given an opportunity to delay software updates, even mandatory updates. That’s where users (along with PhoneNews.com) and Verizon stop seeing eye-to-eye. As we noted previously, the Casio G’zOne Boulder (the first phone to receive forced firmware updates), updated itself without any user notification. We saw it ourselves, as did several other readers.
Other companies have had problems recently which highlight this issue. For example, a recent DirecTV software update rendered thousands of satellite receivers inoperable. DirecTV was able to resolve the issue because of a backup safeguard… nearly a day later. However, this highlights the potential for one malformed software update to brick thousands of phones, without any consent from the user… regardless of what situation the user may be in. Verizon did note to PhoneNews.com that theyÂ rigorouslyÂ test such updates before they are sent to phones.
In addition, some have noted to us the FCC’s policy (which we only touched on in our first report). Specifically, the FCC mandates that cell phones operate as Public Safety Access Points (PSAPs). This means that a phone must be able to call for emergency services (911) at all times. If a phone were to fail to update properly (a commonÂ occurrence), then the phone would fall out ofÂ compliance. A user mustÂ explicitlyÂ consent to each and every software update, in order to avoid this potential FCC violation. This ensures that the user is in a safe place, should the update fail or cause delays in reaching emergency services.
Since our original reporting on Verizon’s FOTA woes, Verizon Wireless has removed PhoneNews.com’s editor-in-chief from the Verizon Wireless Customer Council. Started two years ago, the Customer Council is Verizon’s independent think tank, paneled by experts in the consumer community. While we did not report on this at the time, the entire Customer Council has internally objected to Verizon’s FOTA process. Every user that discussed issue, reported at least one critical objection with the current process.
Verizon insists that the two events are not correlated. However, Verizon has given conflicting statements about media paneling on the think tank. While PhoneNews.com’s editor-in-chief was originally were paneled as a member of the media, Verizon now claims that members of the media were not intended to be paneled on the Council. Other members of the media were also removed from the panel.
In addition, Customer Council members, as well as PhoneNews.com readers, have witnessed phones updating themselves, without any user notification. Notification, that Verizon still insists phones give users before updating.
PhoneNews.com will continue to pursue this issue, in the hope that Verizon will come intoÂ compliance, and general common sense about phone updates. It simply is not safe for a phone (a life-saving device) to update its firmware without any user consent. We are preparing an FCC complaint, that we will provide to viewers so that they can let the FCC know just how important this issue is.
21 responses to “Verizon FOTA Issues Persist, Customer Council Objects, FCC PSAP Concerns”
[…] …the cons Verizon FOTA Issues Persist, Customer Council Objects, FCC PSAP Concerns | PhoneNews.com this has been a very valid point since the bouder i dont let pc programs update without […]
Both T-Mobile and att/Cingular have been doing this as well, albeit in a more subtle way. The Motorola modding community has been witnessing both innocuous items such as branded startup screens, and not so innocuous ones such as Java corelets being replaced upon powerup. at&t seems to be more insidious, upon letting a friend with at&t use both a Nokia 8801 and a rare MPx300, neither phone will recognize a sim anymore. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
I am a member of the Verizon Wireless Customer Council, and I find this website’s attempt to use the council to make a name for themselves despicable. The bigger issue to me is the founder of this blog made threats to the council founders to try everything they could to stir up negative press for Verizon unless they reversed their decision and allowed him to remain a member (where benefits are receiving free newly released phones.) How can anyone trust the subjectivity of this site with those kinds of actions?
The two events show absolutely zero signs of being related, in fact as this very own post states EVERY member in the discussion had negative things to say about the FOTA process, why wasn’t everyone else kicked out. There were other members of the media that were affected by Verizon’s decision to no longer have media in the council, and none of them reported on the FOTA issues.
To be clear, we did not threaten Verizon. We simply stated that our removal from the Council was suspect, and that we would have to report on it. We asked Verizon to reverse their decision, and they declined.
We always prefer to work inside of the industry to head-off reports like these, whenever possible. We did point out that our removal from the Council, gives us one less tool to do so.
Now, as to Milkbone’s reports… we’ve seen that stuff as well. The difference here, is that Verizon is affecting files that a phone uses to power up. If a Java midlet corrupts, you can still call 911. If a firmware flash corrupts, Little Johnny stuck on top of a mountain… won’t be able to call for help.
We realize carriers need to be able to update certain portions of software without notifying the user. What Verizon is doing here however, simply is not safe in our opinion. For us, this is a public safety matter, no different than the Nextel rebanding issue.
I am also a member of the Verizon Wireless Customer Council, and just as grooves mentioned find this article a horrible attempt at news.
First off you mention that every member of the council objected to Verizons FOTA. I never said anything of the sort and find it offensive that you would write an article putting words in my mouth. Isn’t the news supposed to be 100 percent true?
Second the whole reason you are no longer a member is because you were never supposed to be one at the start. It is a conflict of interest as you are affiliated with the media. The whole point of the Council is to get a consumer response, and you are NOT a consumer. You are affiliated with both the media and other consumers.
Also please correct your article as it is not a real piece of news considering you are lying and placing words in my mouth.
We said that every member of the Council that commented on the topic, objected to it. We did not imply members that remained silent (such as you) had other opinions on the issue. Re-read the article and see for yourself.
I can understand some frustration on the Customer Council, but please take it to the Verizon Wireless Forum. We will be re-routing all further comments on the Council there.
We made it very clear to Verizon’s Council that we were members of the media, and for two years, they told us explicitly that this was acceptable… and that our participation as experts was welcomed. This article is meant to update readers on Verizon Forced FOTA, please stay on topic.
Interesting article. However, it was a little tough to read due to some grammatical issues … which cloud the clarity of the article.
“Every user that discussed issue, reported at least one critical objection with the current process.” (I think there’s a couple of words missing)
“Notification, that Verizon still insists phones give users before updating.” (This is sort of a fragment, I think. It’s a little confusing).
Just a heads-up, I always enjoy reading the articles and await your revised guide on the best way to get a cheap data plan.
Oh, as for my stance on FOTA.. (this sums up what I posted inside the VCC forums..)
While I canâ€™t comment on the legality of it, as Iâ€™m not a lawyer, I do feel Verizon’s implementation is flawed.
Seeing it in action on my Boulder (the only phone I’ve seen it on so far..), the phone notifies the user an update is available, then gives a short time for the user to “opt out”. If the user fails to answer within the time limit, the upgrade happens. My boulder was updated TWICE this way.. both times overnight, so I did not see the prompts, and had no chance to Opt Out.
I think it should instead be… Phone prompts user an upgrade is available. The user then must OPT-IN within a time limit in order to receive the upgrade. Failure to opt-in in time means the update doesn’t happen.
As reason, I’ll point to the Voyager V09 firmware update that most users on Hofo and other forums reported containted new bugs, their phones started random reboots and other problems after being flashed wiht V09, compared to the prior V07 firmware. Had this been on OTA upgrade like we’ve seen on the boulder, countless users would have been impacted.
Daniel, I’ll clear up those concerns. They aren’t so much grammar errors, as exogenous things that would have made the article more dense.
â€œEvery user that discussed issue, reported at least one critical objection with the current process.â€ (I think thereâ€™s a couple of words missing)
Verizon Wireless Customer Council members objected for different reasons. Some found the entire process of Forced FOTAs to be unacceptable. Others found the lack of documentation (information on what was changed in the update) to be unacceptable. Everyone that commented on Verizon’s current method of Forced FOTA, objected to it, in one form or another.
â€œNotification, that Verizon still insists phones give users before updating.â€ (This is sort of a fragment, I think. Itâ€™s a little confusing).
It’s not so much of a fragment, as a reference to the prior paragraph. Verizon still insists users are notified, and given an option to delay a FOTA update. We stated that earlier in the article, and re-referenced it when we noted that Council members, as well as PhoneNews.com, and PhoneNews.com readers… all have reported that not to be the case (especially if the flip is closed on the phone).
Basically, if you aren’t looking directly at a phone (with the flip open), you won’t see a Forced FOTA notification, and the phone will proceed to update itself. You’ll have no way to even delay (much less block) the update.
Why do I get the feeling Verizon just took one huge step closer to becoming Skynet?
Digg This: http://digg.com/gadgets/Verizon_FOTA_Issues_Persist_FCC_PSAP_Concerns
[…] update also echos our previous coverage of Verizon’s FOTA implementation, which can be used to update devices without the […]
Hey Chris…Here is one for you, which I have heard through rumors and I can not confirm if it is true or not true.
Verizon uses a roaming selection termed as PRL=TRUE. What that means, is that in order for a CDMA phone to roam on another carrier’s network, the other carrier must be specified in the PRL. If a CDMA signal is available, but not specified in the PRL, the phone will NOT acquire that CDMA signal thus, the user will be denied the ability to dial 911 in areas where there is no Verizon signal, but there is a alternative signal albeit Verizon does not have a roaming relationship with. I have just heard about it anedotally.
when dialing 911 all phones ignore the prl and use any signal available to the phone regardless of which company it belongs to.
[…] spotlighted the need for Verizon to reform on GPS. We just hope they will do the same on their legally dubious forced firmware updates, which can leave you trapped on a mountain… with a paperweight for a phone to call for help. […]
All it will take is for one such person to be stranded upon one such mountain with one such bricked phone and the resulting lawsuit would put a swift end to this reprehensible practice (and hopefully a large dent in avaricious Verizon’s purse).
For anyone with a single functioning neuron in their skull (unfortunately that rules out the majority of the U.S. population, which is why such insanity is allowed to go unchallenged), there can be no question at all that this practice should be illegal. It is an outrage. Basically, these corporations are saying “you paid for the phone, but we still claim ownership of the phone and can do anything we want to it without your knowledge or consent”. (I am of course referring to phones that are not on a contract and were purchased full-retail, unlocked, where there is no question of ownership).
Only in America, where the government is the dutiful servant of corporations. And where the sheeple bend over and beg for more because they are brainwashed into thinking it’s in their best interest! Incredible.
[…] Wireless late last year stopped all forced FOTA updates on their devices, after PhoneNews.com publicly detailed the dangers, risks, […]
[…] Wireless late last year stopped all forced FOTA updates on their devices, after PhoneNews.com publicly detailed the dangers, risks, […]
[…] the wake of Verizon’s dangerous and legally-questionable firmware over-the-air implementation, LG has launched their own LG Software Update application. […]
[…] Understandable, but not very objective. AT&T only needs to note that we pursued Verizon last year over dangerous firmware updates. The result? They blackballed us from their think tank, but we moved on. AT&T doesn’t […]
Yeah take that