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The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Confusing: Understanding Carrier IQ
By: Melody Weister
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Ever since a security researcher named Trevor Eckhart posted a video on YouTube exposing the data-logging software installed on his Android smartphone by a California-based analytics company called Carrier IQ, the entire smartphone community has been up in arms. The debacle originated in the U.S., but has since spilled over international borders: The British Information Commissioner’s Office and the European Consumers’ Organization have both recently initiated inquiries into the software, which Carrier IQ insists is used only for diagnostic purposes. Senator Al Franken has demanded that Carrier IQ release information on what data it does and doesn’t collect and the specific nature in which that data is used. Of course, as soon as the words “keystroke logging” hit the public arena, paranoia set in, and suddenly people are looking at their phones, wondering if Big Brother really is watching them.
 
Carrier IQ has published a press release stating, “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.” This accompanied a YouTube video in which the company’s CEO, Larry Lenhart, insists that the company does not record keystrokes or use tracking data.
 
In a later interview with The Register, the company’s VP of marketing acknowledged that the software does in fact record geographic data, log keystrokes, and capture some text messages, although he insisted that much of the data is immediately discarded and therefore does not threaten privacy. Furthermore, he pointed out, the data collected is the property of the companies who commission CIQ’s services. Although this information assuaged some concerns, many people found it only raises a slew of new ones, especially given the fact that it directly contradicted the statements given by the company’s CEO.
 
As of right now, there remains no way to remove the software from one’s smartphone without rooting the device, a process that many tech-savvy users advocate but that more amateur users shouldn’t attempt, as a misstep could render the phone useless. According to the list of carriers and manufacturers who are/are not “On the Carrier IQ Bandwagon,” published by Engadget, none of them are accessing any personal information, regardless of what’s available.
 
Though the facts of the situation still remain murky in many regards, the debate has provoked legitimate questions about the security of user data over mobile networks. The call for companies to provide increased security and heightened privacy measures in the world of wireless technology has been long overdue, and it’s about time some serious attention was given to the matter.

What are your thoughts regarding this issue?


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About the Author
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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