Carriers

Carrier IQ and carrier clients reiterate: we are not spying on

December 2, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka

AT&T, Carriers, Sprint, T-Mobile

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Responding to allegations that it logs all user activity, Carrier IQ has once again defended its product and said emphatically that it does not spy on users or record their private data for questionable purchases. Carrier IQ released the following statement to the press yesterday:

We measure and summarize performance of the device to assist Operators in delivering better service. While a few individuals have identified that there is a great deal of information available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset, 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.

Carrier IQ says that Trevor Eckhart’s video showing its software logging key presses and SMS messages is “misinformation” because it doesn’t send the actual message or key logs to the servers. Instead, it relies on triggers that help run diagnostics and improve network performance. Carrier IQ did admit that it can see the phone number associated with SMS messages, but denied that it reads, stores, or analyzes the body of the text message.

“What the Eckhart video demonstrates is that there’s a great deal of information available on a handset,” Andrew Coward, CIQ VP of marketing, told AllThingsD. “What it doesn’t show is that all information is processed, stored, or forwarded out of the device.”

Coward’s statements are one of many made recently to fight back against implications that Carrier IQ, and the network operators who use its software, listens to user activity for purposes beyond diagnostics. The problem grew after Carrier IQ first claimed that it did not record keystrokes, which then prompted Eckhart to make a video showing that it in fact does record when buttons are pressed and the text of SMS messages. The issue has since shifted to whether it’s accurate to say that CIQ does not transmit logs of personal data beyond what it says is only to run diagnostics when problems arise with the network. A computer consultant interviewed by NBC Nightly News and Lookout Mobile Security have said it doesn’t look like there’s anything nefarious being sent.

Manufacturers have distanced themselves from Carrier IQ and put the control squarely on the diagnostics companies and network operators. For its part, carriers are also trying to downplay involvement or ease carrier concerns. Verizon explicitly said that it has no involvement with Carrier IQ, and several carriers in Europe and Canada have done the same. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile admit to using the software, but deny that there’s anything wrong with it.

Sprint released this statement to The Verge

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.

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