Carrier IQ responds to scandal: We’re not doing anything wrong


Carrier IQ, which makes diagnostic software for mobile devices, has responded to claims that it is spying on users. Its statement, which shrugs off any wrongdoing whatsoever, follows a flurry of statements from the mobile industry’s biggest players, and an inquiry into the matter by Sen. Al Franken.

In an interview with AllThingsD‘s John Paczkowski, Carrier IQ spokesperson Andrew Coward said that his company’s software “receives a huge amount of information from the operating system. But just because it receives it doesn’t mean that it’s being used to gather intelligence about the user or passed along to the carrier.”

The uproar over Carrier IQ’s software, which is installed on millions of devices on AT&T and Sprint networks (but not Verzion), and is completely hidden from the user, started after Android developer Trevor Eckhard released a YouTube video showing the software at work. In the 17-minute clip, the software is shown recording keystrokes, location, URLs, incoming text messages, and encrypted data.

Contrary to previous accounts — and to Eckhard’s findings — Coward says that the video does not show that “all information is processed, stored, or forwarded out of the device” by Carrier IQ’s software. Instead, it’s simply being used to send out information that is useful to carriers for quality-assessment purposes, Coward asserts. So if, for instance, your device drops a call, or a text message fails to go through, that information may be recorded and sent to the carrier.

To determine which information is sent to carriers, Carrier IQ’s software is programmed to look for specific numeric sequences. If one of these sequences shows up in its system, that information is sent to the carrier.

Carrier IQ’s software can be modified to each carrier’s specifications, so only the data the carrier wants to know about it sent. In addition, Coward says that Carrier IQ’s software does not record the contents of text messages, only the number to which a message is sent. It also does not record the contents of websites visited, only the URL.

“What’s actually gathered, stored and transmitted to the carrier is determined by its end-user agreement,” Carrier IQ chief executive Larry Lenhart tells AllthingsD. “And, as I’m sure you’re aware, the carriers are highly sensitive about what data they’re allowed to capture and what they’re not allowed to capture.”

Lenhart also says that none of the data collected by its software is sent to third parties. “We would never take that data and distribute it to a third party. We are prohibited from doing that by our agreements.”

OK, now that we have the official company line out of the way, let’s take a look at what’s actually being said here. First, Carrier IQ has explicitly said that it “listens” to a wide range of activity on the phone, but doesn’t record all of it. The only information that is passed on to the carrier is that which is pre-designated as important, only data that relates to quality control.

If you ask us, the problem is not that carriers want to know when something goes wrong with their network, or a device on their network. The problem is that Carrier IQ’s software is 1) hidden from the user; 2) does not give the ability to opt-out; and 3) could, potentially, be programmed to record and send any data entered into the phone, even if it’s currently only being used to transmit data related to service quality.

Carrier IQ’s clarification on the matter only confirms that mobile users are trusting the company not to betray their privacy. That makes mobile users’ who have Carrier IQ’s software installed vulnerable. And that, folks, is a problem, even if Carrier IQ doesn’t agree.

Needless to say, this issue is far from over. As PaidContent reports, Carrier IQ, as well as HTC and Samsung, both of which have admitted to installing Carrier IQ’s software on their devices, have been sued by plaintiffs in Chicago and St. Louis. The suit is based upon the Federal Wiretap Act, which forbids the interception of “oral, wire or electronic communications.” Violation of this law allows for penalties of up to $100 per day, per violation. The plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in damages. HTC, for one, says it is investigating ways to disable the software.

As of this writing, Carrier IQ’s software has been installed on more than 141,3oo,000 devices, according to the company website.

[Image via Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock]

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.

Singapore Airlines passengers unsettled by cameras in seat-back displays

A number of passengers flying with Singapore Airlines recently expressed concern over cameras embedded in seat-back displays on some of its aircraft, though the carrier insists the devices have been disabled.

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
Product Review

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an affordable phone that’s crippled by its camera

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is HMD Global’s first smartphone to be sold by a U.S. carrier in-store. It’s only available on Cricket Wireless right now, which underlines its focus on affordability. Should you buy a phone this affordable?
Home Theater

Samsung Galaxy Buds first look: Are they ear candy or ear worm?

Samsung’s answer to the oddball design of Apple's AirPods is the new Galaxy Buds, which are cheaper, better looking, and bring some neat features. Can Galaxy Buds snuff out the AirPods?
Product Review

Samsung's Galaxy S10 phones are its most refined yet. Be prepared to pay up

Samsung has unveiled its lineup for its most popular smartphones, and it includes the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. The two flagship phones boast hole-punch cameras, fingerprint sensors embedded in the display, and beefier batteries.

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 this year

The Samsung Galaxy S10 boasts a number of hardware improvements over previous Samsung phones, but it also offers a few software improvements too. Adobe Premiere Rush CC, for example, is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 later this year.

Folding smartphones hinge on the success of the Samsung Galaxy Fold

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. S10 Plus vs. S10e vs. S10 5G: Which should you buy?

With four stunning Galaxy S10 phones to choose from, Samsung is bombarding us with choice, but which one should you buy? We compare the S10, S10 Plus, S10e, and S10 5G in various categories to find out exactly how they differ.

Samsung's new Galaxy Watch Active can track your blood pressure

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down the gym.

Here’s where you can buy the brand-new Samsung Galaxy S10

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the most-anticipated phones of the year, offering a new chipset, beautiful display, and more. Now that the phone has been announced, however, you might be wondering where you can get it for yourself.

Samsung Galaxy S10 optimizations make it great for Fortnite

Samsung's new line of Galaxy S10 devices have been optimized for gaming. All three offer improved support for the Unity engine and the S10 Plus also offers vapor chamber cooling, similar to the Xbox One X.

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.

Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.