AT&T: Carrier IQ information has been 'invaluable'

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) defended its use of Carrier IQ's software in a filing with the FCC, arguing that Carrier IQ's products have been "invaluable to AT&T in improving its network and the services it offers to its customers."

The comments are noteworthy in light of the public relations disaster that engulfed Carrier IQ last year. Carrier IQ--a Fierce 15 winner in 2008--was catapulted into the limelight in early December when a researcher found its software logged smartphone user information like location data and web browsing. The issue blew up into a public relations nightmare for the company, with users blasting Carrier IQ in Internet comments and lawmakers calling for investigations into the company's privacy situation.

Partly as a result of the Carrier IQ situation, the FCC earlier this year opened a proceeding to investigate how carriers are using their customers' information. In its filing on the topic with the FCC, AT&T offered a significant amount of information about its use of Carrier IQ's software.

AT&T said Carrier IQ's software is "installed on certain devices and also embedded in AT&T's Mark The Spot ("MTS") application software." The carrier said it uses the software to record users' connection problems and then repair those problems, as well as for customer care issues. "These technical data likewise permit AT&T to identify holes in its existing network that are not otherwise detected by AT&T's network engineering tools."

AT&T said its use of Carrier IQ's products is detailed in its "Wireless Customer Agreement" and its MTS End User Licensing Agreement, and that its Privacy Policy describes how AT&T protects such information. 

Interestingly, AT&T said it applies "robust security measures" to the Carrier IQ data. Specifically, the CIQ archive file on an AT&T device stores data in a compressed and encoded format, the carrier said, and is erased when a different SIM card is used or when the device is flashed or reset.

"The CIQ data in the archive file is uploaded daily in encrypted format to AT&T servers located inside AT&T's secure firewalls and is not retained in the archive file on the device," AT&T wrote. "CIQ data is erased so that it is no longer retrievable from the AT&T CIQ servers 60 days after being uploaded from the device, subject to any legal holds that may apply. Personal information is encrypted before CIQ data is sent to downstream systems, which have a 90 day retention period. Data in those systems may be decoded by authorized personnel for certain, specified purposes such as data validation or customer care.  After 90 days the encrypted data is eliminated so that CIQ data is only available in the aggregate."

AT&T's filing represents a rare showing of support for Carrier IQ, which said it lost revenues due to the public relations blow-up from last year. However, the company earlier this year confirmed it hasn't lost any of its carrier customers due to the situation. The company counts AT&T, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), T-Mobile USA and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) in the United States as customers.

For more:
- see this AT&T filing

Related Articles:
Carrier IQ hires Verizon alum Mobley to lead consumer privacy efforts
Carrier IQ: We have lost business due to public relations debacle
Lawmaker Markey unveils Mobile Device Privacy Act
Sprint, HTC update phones to eliminate Carrier IQ software

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