There’s quite a debacle going on in the wireless world right now, or as the Brits like to call it, a “row”. A company that was once thought as the primary go-to in the mobile world for diagnostic software that is on millions of handsets throughout the country, Carrier IQ is being looked at with a microscope by the government, the tech industry, consumers, and the people that wear foil on their heads, living “off the grid”, with 19th century plumbing.
Who’s Carrier IQ? What are they doing to cause so many to be upset? Take a journey with me..
Founded in 2005, and privately owned, Carrier IQ is a company that provides software for diagnostics of “smart phones” made by various manufacturers, and by numerous service providers. A statement once made by Carrier IQ said that they “Are unique because we are the only company embedding diagnostic software in millions of phones”. A revolutionary idea, this is what sometimes takes place when you’re on the phone with customer service, or tech support for your provider, and they are discussing the current state of your phone with you. How do they know? Carrier IQ’s software. Everything was going fine, until the beginning of November this year.
It began with a video posted by an industry researcher named Trevor Eckhart. The posted video, is Eckhart showing the viewer that Carrier IQ’s software was logging location information, and keystrokes, and was not asking permission if the user, which is a violation of Federal Communication laws. Carrier IQ sent a cease and desist letter to Eckhart on November 16th, informing him that the information he showed, and posted in his video was proprietary, and that he was committing copyright infringement, and making “false allegations” against the software company. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was contacted by Eckhart for help in the matter, and the EFF backed him, and his findings.
Upon news of the combined front of Eckhart and the EFF, Carrier IQ settled down a bit, a put out a public apology letter to Trevor Eckhart, denying any wrong doing on their part, in regards to logging and tracking, and made an offer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation to work together in the matter. But this outing of potential fraudulent practice was far from over.
Eckhart bounced right back into the matter, with another video he posted on November 28th. This time, it had Carrier IQ’s software caught in the act with detail. His 2nd video showed what he said is Carrier IQ’s software, showed clearly on the phone’s display, processing texts, mobile web browser information, and keystrokes. The company fired off another response, in a matter of a few days: “The metrics and tools we derive are not designed to deliver such info nor do we have any intention of developing such tools”. Looking at Carrier IQ’s site reveals a statement that mobile providers “Capture an array of experience data including screen transitions, button presses, service interactions, and anomalies”. That’s understood, Carrier IQ, but that has nothing to do with what it appears that your software is doing.
The Comedian That Became A Politician
United States Senator Al Franken, of Minnesota got wind of this ordeal, and as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and Law, was disturbed to say the least of the videos, and what Carrier IQ’s software may be doing. A letter was sent to Carrier IQ’s C.E.O., Larry Lenhart, asking questions to find out what was going on, and if the software company was violating Federal law. The laws that Carrier IQ could be violating is a long list:
-The Electronic Communications Privacy Act
-The Pen Register Statute
-The Stored Communications Act
-The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
Senator Franken also sent letters to T-Mobile, and Motorola to find out about the installation, and implementation of Carrier IQ’s diagnostic software that the 2 companies used for case by case troubleshooting and marketing. Motorola came back with the following list of their phones that use the software, called IQ Agent:
-Motorola Atrix 2
T-Mobile had a similar reply, but a much longer list, with the mobile provider using IQ Agent since last August, with 450,000 various devices using the software, that are:
-HTC Amaze 4G
-Samsung Galaxy S II
-Samsung Exhibit II 4G
– Blackberry models 9810, 9360, and 9900
Sprint is already disabling the software on their phones. Something more about this, is the rampant speculation that spawned from a response from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in regards to Carrier IQ, which was that the FBI cannot comment, or release information about current investigation proceedings. Is the FBI the Carrier IQ data? A very unexpected response, to a very strange situation. If you have any of the phones listed above and are concerned about any possible personal privacy issues, contact your mobile provider about the situation. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.