Hey IT Nerd: What’s The Deal With Carrier IQ Being On My Smartphone? [UPDATED]

One of the things that really hit the fan during my break from blogging was the whole Carrier IQ fiasco. Here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know. The whole circus started when Trevor Eckhart from Connecticut found a piece of software on his Google Android phone that appeared to be recording his activities. The software was made by a company called Carrier IQ who claimed that the software only gave carriers usage and other stats so they can improve their networks and service. Two things to keep in mind about this software:

  • It runs all the time and cannot be turned off
  • It can be removed by unlocking the phone and gaining administrator access. Though this usually voids the warranty.

It gets worse. According to Eckhart, the software tracks the phone’s location, key presses, Web pages visited, when calls are placed, and other information. As proof, he’s posted this video on YouTube showing this in action. Whether this info is transmitted to Carrier IQ or anyone else is open to debate though. Android users aren’t the only ones that have to worry. The software apparently has Blackberry, iPhone and Nokia variants as well.

What this is can be described in one word: Rootkit. I say that because it gathers data without the user’s knowledge or permission. Another thing to note is that phone carriers seem to be the ones behind getting this software on their phones. It might have been nice of them to tell users that.

Carrier IQ has been trying explain themselves since this circus began. So have carriers such as Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. One has to wonder if Canadian carriers such as Rogers, Bell, and Telus are using this software. It might be in their best interests to come clean on that before someone such as the Privacy Commissioner of Canada forces them to come clean.

So, should you worry? Maybe. The fact that this software is on your phone without your knowledge or permission is a problem. One that I say needs some laws to make sure that this doesn’t happen ever again.

UPDATE: I asked “my best friends at Rogers” about this and here’s what they said:

We take the privacy of our customers very seriously. We do not request or activate Carrier IQ on any device. Carrier IQ in not installed on our network so customer information is not – and cannot – be captured.

Thanks Rogers! Bell, Telus, how about you guys?

One Response to “Hey IT Nerd: What’s The Deal With Carrier IQ Being On My Smartphone? [UPDATED]”

  1. If such a program is available to Canadian carriers, I have no doubt they are using it. These folks have no more scruples about such things.

    I don’t have the technical skill to check my Bell phone, perhaps someone with the necessary knowledge, would check and advise Canadian users. I would be very upset if it was proven that Bell are up to such nefarious actions.

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