The recent storm over Carrier IQ, a software installed on more than 150 million smartphones was sparked by a security researcher by the name of Trevor Eckhart, where he posted a 17-minute video a couple of weeks back revealing the use of CIQ that kept track of user activities without the knowledge of its users. Just for clarification, Carrier IQ is a privately owned mobile software company founded in 2005 providing analytics services for smartphones. Generally speaking, it’s a diagnostics software that is able to identify and hopefully solve problems that come across by information gathering and analyzing. Now, you see how that might be a problem for customers who had just been made aware of this software.
While some big name telecommunication providers including T-Mobile might also have this software on their smartphones, AT&T and Sprint are the only two to have come forward stating the software existence was made clear in their privacy policies. But honestly, who actually read those agreements or policies, much easier to just click the “I Agree” box, I’m sure most people do just that.
AT&T’s executive vice president for federal relations, Timothy McKone, wrote the following regarding the company’s notice to customers: “we collect network, performance and usage information from our network and customer devices, and we use that information to maintain and improve our network and their wireless experience. Sprint’s senior vice president for government affairs also wrote something similar regarding the expectations of customers: “Sprint believes customers expect service providers and network operators to take reasonable technological steps to maintain the performance of their networks and device functionality in order to effectively deliver call and data services to users.”
As you can imagine, Carrier IQ was sued after the video release by Eckhart, for the time being T-Mobile and Motorola has until December 20th to give an explanation for their use of CIQ, this was issued by Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who also mentioned that the software is a problem considering people have the right to their privacy. However, Carrier IQ does deny that they capture or forward its multi-media messages, photos, emails, etc., to its wireless carriers.
Sprint made clear their intent for the software was to report network deficiencies to improve network and service rather than snooping on the context or customer stored information or for the use of profiling for that matter. With that being said, FBI director Robert Mueller denied of gathering any intelligence from CIQ but could not rule out the possibility that the data received from wireless carriers were obtained by means of the CIQ software.
Sprint mentioned after weighing customer concerns on the matter that they have remotely disabled the service on its network and is no long collecting data from it. But whether or not an update that will get rid of the software or future installation on new devices is still not yet determined.