Carrier IQ Captures Cell and Internet Usage from Millions without Approval

05 December 2011 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

A researcher recently found that Carrier IQ software is secretly installed on most modern Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia phones. Android developer’s Trevor Eckert’s 17 minute video demonstrates how that Carrier IQ software is loaded on his phone, cannot be disabled, tracks every keystroke, and sends the data to Carrier IQ.  After receiving this massive data from millions of cell users, Carrier IQ "correlates and aggregates the data for near real-time system monitoring and business intelligence" for phone carriers and manufacturers ostensibily to improve quality.

Eckert demonstrated that Carrier IQ software was logging and potentially transmitting the sensitive information of consumers, including:

  • when they turn their phones on;
  • when they turn their phones off;
  • the phone numbers they dial;
  • the contents of text messages they receive;
  • the URLs of the websites they visit;
  • the contents of their online search queries—even when those searches are encrypted; and
  • the location of the customer using the smartphone—even when the customer has expressly denied permission for an app that is currently running to access his or her location.

As a result Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chair of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission  asking what is being done to investigate.

In addition to Representative Markey’s letter, Senator Al Franken (chairman of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law) sent his own letter to Carrier IQ which included the following:

I am very concerned by recent reports that your company’s software – pre-installed on smartphones used by millions of Americans – is logging and may be transmitting extraordinarily sensitive information from consumers’ phones … It also appears that an average user would have no way to know that this software is running – and that when the user finds out, he or she will have no reasonable means to remove or stop it. … These actions may violate federal privacy laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This is potentially a very serious matter.

Senator Franken requested that Carrier IQ answer by December 14, 2011.

On December 1, 2011 Carrier IQ issued a press release in which Carrier IQ stated that consumer’s privacy is protected:

Consumers have a trusted relationship with operators and expect their personal information and privacy to be respected. As a condition of its contracts with operators, Carrier IQ operates exclusively within that framework and under the laws of the applicable jurisdiction. The data we gather is transmitted over an encrypted channel and secured within our customers’ networks or in our audited and customer-approved facilities.

Actually Carrier IQ claimed that “Our software makes your phone better by delivering intelligence on the performance of mobile devices and networks to help the operators provide optimal service efficiency.”

This is alarming news and it seems to me we all expect our government to step in to protect consumers’ privacy which seems has been seriously compromised! 

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Authors

Related Services

Insights

CMS Proposes Enhanced Scrutiny over Medicaid Supplemental Payments
20 November 2019
Health Care Law Today
The Purpose of a Corporation
November 2019
Legal News: Business Law
Should This Be a "Mobility" Industry Blog?
19 November 2019
Dashboard Insights
Data Processing Patent Eligibility: Federal Circuit Finds Claims Eligible in KPN v. Gemalto
19 November 2019
IP Litigation Current
PATH Summit 2019
18-20 December 2019
Arlington, VA
Madison CLE Days
18-19 December 2019
Madison, WI
MedTech Impact Expo & Conference
13-15 December 2019
Las Vegas, NV
HFMA MA-RI Annual Compliance Update
12 December 2019
Boston, MA