Saturday, December 3, 2011

Carrier IQ Analyzed; Unclear Whether Consumers Should Worry

Privacy advocates all over the United States have been upset over some reports that have surfaced over the past couple weeks. Various stories were published that reported that the U.S wireless carriers install hidden spyware known as Carrier IQ that tracks users. The question up to this point is what is Carrier IQ tracking. Unfortunately, the answer is not clear. According to all accounts, Carrier IQ does track non identifiable information, anonymous usage data of users’ smartphones that helps the telecoms improve network performance. But that is not the only thing Carrier IQ appears to be tracking. The spyware is also capable of sending text message and user input to the carriers as well. And while Sprint and AT&T have both come out of their shells to say that they are not gathering user inputted data, but only gathering anonymous usage data to improve network performance. But as you are aware, big corporations are very capable of lying, even unintentionally, so while it is possible that what they say is true, it is even more possible that the PR spokesmen/women could be mistaken. And to be technically correct, Carrier IQ can be labeled as spyware, since it is installed secretly and not made known to the user, nor given permission by the user to be installed. Those who play the role of devil’s advocate have said that the intentions of the wireless carriers are not malicious, but my point to be made is that nobody is sure of the intentions of AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, all of which are suspects of installing the spyware on their smartphones. Verizon made clear that they did not put Carrier IQ on their devices, but some skeptics suspected that Verizon had their own mechanism of tracking users.

[Thanks to for the great visual!]
The company that has designed the Carrier IQ software for the wireless carriers is now facing legal issues, as they are being sued for breaking certain wiretap laws with Carrier IQ. These suits are just the beginning of more trouble, not just for the manufacturer of Carrier IQ, but also for the wireless carriers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if the FCC started probing the telecoms for information regarding their use of the software. The whole story of Carrier IQ may not be complete, since I’m expecting a spokesman of T-Mobile to publish an official comment on the behalf of T-Mobile. So while the story hasn’t completely developed yet, this is what we have discovered so far. Expect much more to be made known in the near future.

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