Carrier IQ May Face FTC Investigation

Carrier IQ, makers of the once-covert mobile device monitoring software, continues to receive scrutiny from the U.S government. On Wednesday, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) sent a letter to Larry Lenhart—Carrier IQ’s CEO and President—inquiring about how the software and data collected was being used. Now U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) has asked the FTC to invesigate whether Carrier IQ has violated the privacy rights of millions of mobile phone users. From Reuters:

“Consumers and families need to understand who is siphoning off and storing their personal information every time they use their smart phone,” Markey said in a statement.


In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Markey asked the agency to investigate this under its mandate to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

I wonder if the FTC will also look into Carrier IQ’s customers, which include AT&T, Sprint, HTC and—at one time—Apple.

Carrier IQ Facing Government Scrutiny

Senator Al Franken (D-MN)—showing interest in the potential privacy issues surrounding the use of Carrier IQ’s mobile device monitoring software—sent a letter on Wednesday to Larry Lenhart, CEO and President of Carrier IQ, asking exactly how the software, and collected data is being used. Of considerable interest is how the software may violate federal laws. From the letter:

These actions may violate federal privacy laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This is potentially a very serious matter.

Carrier IQ has until December 14, 2011 to provide answers.

Carrier IQ Hot Potato

AllThingsD talked to Carrier IQ about what is captured via their monitoring software and how it is used. My favorite excerpt:

[…] CIQ still has the ability to capture a wide variety of user data. So who is determining what exactly is being collected?

The carriers. They decide what’s to be collected and how long it’s stored — typically about 30 days. And according to Carrier IQ, the data is in their control the whole time.

“It’s the operator that determines what data is collected,” says Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart. “They make that decision based on their privacy standards and their agreement with their users, and we implement it.”

On this point, Lenhart is particularly emphatic. “We capture only the data they specify, and provide it to them,” he reiterates. “We don’t capture more than that.” […]

It’s like a game of hot potato, and all parties—including the very company responsible for making the monitoring software—are pushing the blame onto the carriers.

AT&T Admits to Using Carrier IQ on Its Network

AT&T is the latest to admit using Carrier IQ on its network, claiming they use the monitoring software for service- and quality-related purposes. When AT&T was probed for more information as to their usage and policies behind Carrier IQ, Computerworld reported:

Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations at AT&T, however, declined to say whether Carrier IQ is present in all AT&T handsets, what notice users have of its presence and whether users have the ability to turn off the software if they choose.

In an emailed statement, Siegel said that AT&T’s use of Carrier IQ software is in line with the company’s privacy policies. “We’re really not going to offer more detail than what’s in the statement,” he said.

Sprint Admits to Using Carrier IQ on Its Network

Sprint has released a statement about its use of Carrier IQ, insisting that they respect and protect the “privacy and security of each customer’s personally identifiable information and other customer data.” Their full statement follows:

“Carrier IQ provides information that allows Sprint, and other carriers that use it, to analyze our network performance and identify where we should be improving service. We also use the data to understand device performance so we can figure out when issues are occurring. 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. The information collected is not sold and we don’t provide a direct feed of this data to anyone outside of Sprint.”

“Sprint is well known for our serious commitment to respecting and protecting the privacy and security of each customer’s personally identifiable information and other customer data. A key element of this involves communicating with our customers about our information privacy practices. The Sprint privacy policy makes it clear we collect information that includes how a device is functioning and how it is being used. Carrier IQ is an integral part of the Sprint service. Sprint uses Carrier IQ to help maintain our network performance.”

[Via GigaOm]

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