Carrier IQ Creates Privacy Controversy in Smartphone World
Microsoft, Nokia, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and Research In Motion are just a few of the companies denying their smartphones and services are loaded with Carrier IQ, the company whose smartphone diagnostics software is accused of monitoring users activity without their explicit consent.
IT pro Trevor Eckhart conducted a very public test, with video, demonstrating what he claimed was Carrier IQ software recording voluminous amounts of user data. For its part, Carrier IQ claimed its software is embedded by device manufacturers along with other diagnostic tools and software prior to shipment, according to a company press release Nov. 16, and that we are counting and summarizing performance, not recording keystrokes or providing tracking tools.
Nonetheless, Eckhart's original report was enough to send pundits and smartphone users into a frenzy, claiming that Carrier IQ's products constitute a massive privacy breach. In the wake of that, various carriers and smartphone manufacturers are scrambling to either distance themselves entirely from Carrier IQ, or else explain their interactions with the company as minimal.
"RIM does not pre-install the Carrier IQ app on BlackBerry smartphones or authorize its carrier partners to install the Carrier IQ app before sales or distribution," RIM wrote in a statement circulated on Reuters and other news Websites Dec. 1. "RIM also did not develop or commission the development or the Carrier IQ application, and has no involvement in the testing, promotion, or distribution of the app."
A Nokia spokesperson also told Reuters: "CarrierIQ does not ship products for any Nokia devices."
Microsoft also chimed in, via its own channels. "Since people are asking--Windows Phones don't have CarrierIQ on them either," Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Phone program, tweeted Dec. 1.
To Gigaom, a Verizon Wireless spokesperson denied any connection with Carrier IQ: "Any report that Verizon Wireless uses Carrier IQ is patently false."
To The Verge, HTC shot down any possible relationship to the beleaguered software company, suggesting that Carrier IQ is required on devices by a number of U.S. carriers, while Apple claimed that any Carrier IQ software will be removed completely in a future software update. Of the carriers, Sprint confirmed it uses Carrier IQ but only to analyze our network performance.
The federal government also seems ready to get involved, with Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) issuing a press release calling on Carrier IQ to explain exactly what the software records, whether it is transmitted to Carrier IQ or any third party, and whether the data is protected against security threats that could risk the safety and privacy of American consumers.