Lawmaker calls for FTC probe into Carrier IQ data tracking

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The Carrier IQ mobile data tracking controversy continues to escalate: In addition to four lawsuits alleging the company's software violates federal and state user privacy laws, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is now lobbying the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the firm's practices as well.

According to allegations by security researcher Trevor Eckhart, the Carrier IQ app secretly records user behaviors across more than 140 million mobile handsets. Carrier IQ denies any wrongdoing, maintaining that its services count and measure operational information and do not record keystrokes or provide tracking tools.

"This software raises a number of privacy concerns for Android, BlackBerry and Nokia users," Markey wrote in a letter to the FTC. "Consumers neither have knowledge of this data collection, nor what Carrier IQ intends to do with this information. As a co-Chair of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, I am concerned that this practice violates the privacy rights of consumers."

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Carrier IQ requesting that it answer questions about its data collection practices by Dec. 14. Activist group Consumer Watchdog is also petitioning the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission to investigate, stating "The probe should extend beyond the software developer, Carrier IQ, and include operating systems developers like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), as well as carriers and device manufacturers."

CNet reports Carrier IQ faces lawsuits in multiple U.S. states. A lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif. claims the firm "is involved in installing spyware on mobile phones and using that hidden software to siphon off private consumer data without consumer consent." The suit claims Carrier IQ is in violation of various federal and state laws, including the California Anti-Spyware Statute and the right to privacy provision of the California Constitution.

A separate suit filed in the same court targets Carrier IQ and device makers HTC and Samsung Electronics, also alleging violations of the Federal Wiretap Act and California's Unfair Business Practice Act. The suit alleges that Carrier IQ does in fact record keystrokes and the content of messages and could transmit that information to third parties. Lawsuits also were filed in Chicago and St. Louis.

"The company has not seen or been served on any lawsuit, so we cannot comment on the allegations at this time," Carrier IQ said in a statement. "Carrier IQ is aware of various commentators alleging Carrier IQ has violated wiretap laws and we vigorously disagree with these assertions." Carrier IQ vice president of marketing Andrew Coward also told CNet that decisions on what kind of data is collected, how much and when are all determined by its mobile operator partners.

Last week, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA all admitted to using Carrier IQ software, stating they integrated the application to improve their network performance. Apple said it stopped using Carrier IQ's platform in the latest version of its operating system, iOS 5. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) have all denied implementing Carrier IQ services on their devices.

For more:
- read this CNet article

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