Overview: Millions of smartphone users around the world may be unaware that their cell phones are recording their activity. Outrage has erupted over Carrier IQ, a type of tracking software that can record a wealth of sensitive information, including keystrokes, according to some reports. The technology comes pre-installed in a number of smartphones, often without the users’ knowledge or consent. According to the Washington Post, Carrier IQ is known to be installed by Apple, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and other wireless carries and handset manufacturers.
- Carrier IQ is installed in 150 million phones around the world; there is evidence that this spy software can record keystrokes, passwords, search history, and other personal information
- The California-based company has been investigated by the Federal Trade Commissions and the Federal Communications Commission; several U.S. Senators have demanded answers from Carrier IQ
- Carrier IQ comes pre-installed on many smartphones without users knowledge or consent, and there is little they can do to remove it
Is Your Smartphone Recording Your Texts and Search History?
Carrier IQ claims that their “embedded analytics” technology is installed in about 150 million mobile devices worldwide. The tracking software is intended to record information and send it back to manufacturers and wireless carriers, who are interested in knowing how the products are being used in the real world. It appears, however, that this software tracks more than mere diagnostics. Controversy erupted about a year ago, when security researcher Trevor Eckhart showed that Carrier IQ can track keystrokes, meaning it logs the content of your text messages, search history, passwords and other personal information. According to Gizmodo, the spy software tracks your activity no matter how secure and private your apps are. It intercepts your information despite a secure connection or private Wi-Fi. Carrier IQ can also track your location, even if you deny it access.
The company has denied tracking sensitive information and sending to the manufacturer and claims that the technology is only used to keep track of a phone’s performance, but many remain skeptical.
Carrier IQ Potentially Violates Federal Privacy Laws
The tracking software has grabbed the attention of a number of people, including several United States Senators. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is one political figure who has expressed serious concerns over potential privacy violations. The Senator sent letters to Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Samsung, HTC and Motorola a series of questions about Carrier IQ, stating that the company’s software may violate federal privacy laws including the Electronic Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The companies responded, but Franken found their answers lacking, stating that “It appears that Carrier IQ has been receiving the contents of a number of text messages — even though they had told the public that they did not. I’m also bothered by the software’s ability to capture the contents of our online searches-even when users wish to encrypt them. So there are still many questions to be answered here and things that need to be fixed.”
The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who is responsible for enforcing privacy laws, have also been investigating Carrier IQ.