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FTC asked to probe Carrier IQ over privacy allegations

Posted by bryanh on Dec 2, 2011, Categories: Mobile News

texting

Can texting be tracked by Carrier IQ? Image: Ed Yourdon/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Friday Congressman Edward Markey (Mass. – D) asked the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a probe of the software maker Carrier IQ over alleged privacy violations. Carrier IQ makes tracking software for mobile devices, including Android phones.

Software used by some carriers

The company’s software is used by makers of cellular devices, including those sold by Sprint and AT&T. It runs in the background, collecting and transmitting data about users of the devices. The software maker says the information helps these companies make more informed decisions about how to better serve their users. Consumer groups say the data infringes on the privacy rights of the device users

Congressman Markey wrote a letter to Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC:

“Consumers and families need to understand who is siphoning off and storing their personal information every time they use their smart phone.”

Consumer groups concerned

The consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog sent letters to the the U.S. Attorney General as well as to the Federal Communications Commission on Friday, asking those agencies to also investigate the company and its product.

Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson said:

“The device many of us carry in our pockets has, simply put, been turned into a virtual spy phone.”

Carrier IQ responds

Thursday, Carrier IQ responded to a letter from Senator Al Franken that requested details on the type of information its software tracked.  Carrier IQ denied recording or transmitting the content of personal messages and emails.

“Our software does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video. For example, we understand whether an SMS was sent accurately, but do not record or transmit the content of the SMS. We know which applications are draining your battery, but do not capture the screen.”

YouTube video causes concern

However, computer expert Trevor Eckart posted a video on YouTube this week that demonstrated how his HTC smartphone was tracked by the software when he turned the phone on and off, as well as when keystrokes were entered. The video alerted consumer groups and lawmakers to the concerns.

Device makers check in

Both Research in Motion — the makers of Blackberry smartphones — and Nokia released statements saying that their devices do not use the Carrier IQ software. Apple said it uses the software in in its ioS 4 operating system, but would not in the newer ioS 5.

Sources

LA Times
Reuters
Computer World 

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