Mobile devices

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding its Emergency Alert Service (“EAS”) rules.  These rules govern how emergency alerts are transmitted by federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial officials to the public over mobile phones, radios, and televisions.
Continue Reading FCC Considering Changes to Emergency Alert Service Rules; Collecting Information About Potential Application to Streaming Services

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is seeking comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would modify certain aspects of the FCC’s device authorization rules.  Specifically, the FCC is seeking comment on a proposed revision to its device authorization rules to allow the importation of limited quantities of radiofrequency (“RF”) devices prior to authorization for pre-sale activities, including imaging, packaging, and delivery to retail locations.  The FCC also is proposing rule revisions that would allow conditional sales, but not delivery, of RF devices to consumers prior to authorization.
Continue Reading FCC Seeks Comment on Proposal to Change Device Marketing Rules

In what is expected to be one of the last meetings under the leadership of current Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Chairman Ajit Pai, the agency will consider adopting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that proposes to modify certain aspects of the FCC’s device authorization rules.  Specifically, the NPRM will propose to allow the importation and conditional marketing and sales of radiofrequency (“RF”) devices that have not yet been approved under the FCC’s rules.  If the rule is ultimately changed, that means companies marketing RF devices for the first time will have the same flexibility enjoyed by some car companies and many other manufacturers to offer a product to the public before it actually can be shipped for use.
Continue Reading FCC Plans to Advance Proposal to Change Device Marketing Rules

Wearable watches that help consumers obtain a better understanding of their eating patterns; wearable clothes that send signals to treating physicians; smart watches: they are but a few examples of the increasingly available and increasingly sophisticated “wearables” on the EU market. These technologies are an integrated part of many people’s lives, and in some cases allow healthcare professionals to follow-up on the condition or habits of their patients, often in real-time. How do manufacturers determine what wearables qualify as medical devices? How do they assess whether their devices need a CE-mark? Must they differentiate between the actual “wearable” and the hardware or software that accompanies them? In this short contribution, we briefly analyze some of these questions. The article first examines what “wearables” are, and when they qualify as a medical device under current and future EU rules. It then addresses the relevance of the applicability of EU medical devices rules to these products. The application of these rules is often complex and highly fact-specific.
Continue Reading IoT Update: Are Wearables Medical Devices Requiring a CE-Mark in the EU?

Mobile phone manufacturer BLU Products, Inc. entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC last week to resolve allegations that one of BLU’s China-based vendors collected personal information about its consumers without proper consent.

The settlement agreement, which took the form of a consent order, applies not only to BLU but also to its CEO and any other companies he owns and controls.  It requires that the company clarify its disclosures regarding customer
Continue Reading Covington IoT Update: Mobile Phone Manufacturer Settles with FTC Over Allegations that Its Vendor Collected Personal Data without Consent

The UK House of Lords Select Committee on Communications has recently opened a Public Consultation on ‘The Regulation of the Internet’, with submissions being accepted until Friday 11 May. The Call for Evidence can be accessed here.

The nine questions posed are relatively broad in scope, including: whether there is a need to introduce

Telecommunications carriers and providers of interconnected VoIP service with access to certain kinds of customer information collected through mobile devices are subject to existing privacy rules governing their use and disclosure of that information, the Federal Communications Commission announced in a declaratory ruling adopted at its June 27 meeting.  Significantly, the decision makes clear that third-party applications, device manufacturers and operating system developers are not covered.

The ruling addresses the scope of the FCC’s rules governing Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI). A federal statute — Section 222 of the Communications Act — requires carriers “to protect the confidentiality of proprietary information” relating to customers, which is defined as information in customers’ bills and other information “that relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of use of a telecommunications service subscribed to by any customer of a telecommunications carrier, and that is made available to the carrier by the customer solely by virtue of the carrier-customer relationship.” This includes information about numbers dialed and received, the length and frequency of calls, and the locations where calls are made.
Continue Reading FCC: Customer Data Carriers Obtain Through Mobile Devices Subject to Existing Privacy Rules

House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders joined the cell phone unlocking debate last week by introducing a pair of new bills.  If enacted, the bills would overturn an October 2012 regulation issued by the Library of Congress, which effectively prohibits consumers from unlocking cell phones purchased after January 26, 2013 so that they may be used on other networks.

The bills — H.R. 1123 and S. 517 — take a narrow approach, similar to the one advocated by the White House, by temporarily re-enacting an older Library of Congress rule that allows unlocking.  That policy would remain in place until 2015, at which point the Library would revisit the matter.  The bills also direct the Library to determine whether consumers should be permitted to unlock tablets and other wireless devices.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, the Senate measure’s sponsor, explained in a March 11 floor statement that the tablet proceeding “makes sense” because “the line between phone and tablet is beginning to blur.”
Continue Reading Cell Phone Unlocking Push Moves to Congress

The Obama administration issued a statement on Monday declaring that consumers not bound by service agreements should be able to unlock their cellular devices for use with other network providers.  In the official response to a petition on the We The People website, a senior White House advisor on the Internet, innovation and privacy agreed with more than 114,000 signatories that it makes “common sense” to allow users to unlock their smart phones and, potentially, tablets without incurring criminal or other penalties.

Cell phone unlocking can run afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits circumvention of technological protection measures that control access to a phone’s copyrighted software.  In 2006 and 2010, the Library of Congress had exempted the practice from the DMCA’s prohibition under its power to issue three-year exemptions to the statute.  But the 2012 exemptions put in place last fall do not extend to the unlocking of cell phones acquired after January 26th of this year.

The White House statement expressed disagreement with this policy, maintaining that cell phone unlocking protects consumer choice and fosters a competitive and innovative wireless market.  Also on Monday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski echoed these concerns and advised that the agency is examining the issue.

Continue Reading White House Calls for Legalization of Some Cell Phone Unlocking

Florida lawmakers have proposed that the government be required to obtain a warrant before searching the contents of “portable electronic devices” or tracking their locations.  The bill, S.B. 846, was introduced by State Representative Jeff Brandes and would go into effect on July 1, 2013.

The proposed Florida law would apply to “portable electronic devices,” such as cellphones.  The bill defines a “portable electronic device” as “an object capable of being easily transported or conveyed by a person which is capable of creating, receiving, accessing, or storing electronic data or communications and that communicates with, by any means, another entity or individual.”  The bill specifically prohibits two different government actions.  First, the “contents and communications” of a portable electronic device, which include “data or information contained in or transmitted from” the device, may not be searched or seized by the government without a warrant.  The warrant requirement is subject to certain exceptions in the bill, such as searches related to national security, missing children, emergencies that are reasonably believed to involve death or serious physical injury, and existing exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Continue Reading Proposed Florida Law Would Require Warrants for Cellphone Searches