AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile admit to using Carrier IQ; Apple says it doesn't anymore
The controversy over Carrier IQ illegally tracking cell phone users' activities continues. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA have come forward, admitting to using Carrier IQ software, albeit allegedly only to improve their network performance. On the other end of the spectrum, Apple said it stopped using Carrier IQ's platform in the latest version of its operating system, iOS 5.
Click here to watch a video by security researcher Trevor Eckhart about Carrier IQ on Android devices.
Sprint issued a statement that Carrier IQ supplies the company with data about its customers as a whole, rather than how private individuals, use their smartphones.
"We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool," wrote Sprint spokesperson Stephanie Vinge in an email to GigaOm.
A T-Mobile spokesperson, in a statement, revealed that the company also uses Carrier IQ software: "T-Mobile utilizes the Carrier IQ diagnostic tool to troubleshoot device and network performance with the goal of enhancing network reliability and our customers' experience. T-Mobile does not use this diagnostic tool to obtain the content of text, email or voice messages, or the specific destinations of a customers' Internet activity, nor is the tool used for marketing purposes."
Separately, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and Law, has reached out to Carrier IQ, asking for clarification on what the software is capable of doing, specifically what types of data it records, if the data is encrypted and who has access to this data. Franken has requested that the company respond by Dec. 14.
Carrier IQ, in an interview with AllThingsD, denied allegations that its software records and transmit private user data.
"The software receives a huge amount of information from the operating system," Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ's VP of marketing, told AllThingsD. "But just because it receives it doesn't mean that it's being used to gather intelligence about the user or passed along to the carrier."
This hasn't stopped public panic, however. Plaintiffs have filed lawsuits in Chicago and St. Louis against Carrier IQ, as well as device makers Samsung and HTC: "Plaintiff Erin Janek owns an HTC Android phone using the Sprint network. At all relevant times Plaintiff used her phone to electronically send over her cell phone network various types of private data. This data was not readily accessible to the general public. She did not know that Defendants were surreptitiously monitoring and collecting this data, nor did she give them permission to do so," according to the lawsuit.
Currently neither lawsuit targets any of the carriers that have admitted to using the software.
The privacy concerns over Carrier IQ software arose when security researcher Trevor Eckhart released a report explaining how Carrier IQ's software could be used by carriers and device makers to track user activity, keystrokes and location data. Eckhart also released a video showing how exactly the software logs text messages and users searches on an Android-enabled HTC handset.
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has denied reports that it used Carrier IQ software on any of its devices. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which Eckhart accused of preinstalling the software on its devices, also denied shipping devices with the Carrier IQ software.
Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) has also released a statement denying that it uses Carrier IQ software on any of its devices. "RIM can attest that it does not pre-install the Carrier IQ application on BlackBerry smartphones and has never done so. Furthermore, RIM does not authorize its carrier partners to install the Carrier IQ application on BlackBerry smartphones before sales or distribution and has never done so," wrote BlackBerry employee Mark Sohm on the company's website. However, RIM's statement leaves open the possibility that RIM's carrier partners insert the software into BlackBerry phones after obtaining them from RIM and before selling them to end users.
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