Carrier IQ Controversy Spawns Lawsuits

The ongoing controversy about Carrier IQ’s software has now entered the courts.

The ongoing controversy about Carrier IQ’s software has now entered the courts.

Mobile phone users around the country have filed a number of lawsuits in response to allegations that Carrier IQ’s software tracks consumers illegally. Among these suits is a class action filed in California against Samsung Electronics, HTC Corp. and HTC America. A separate lawsuit was filed against Carrier IQ and HTC in Missouri, and another suit filed in Delaware added AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Apple and T-Mobile USA to the list of defendants.

“Given our dependence on smartphones, we rely on the assumption that our personal information is protected from third parties,” said Steve W. Berman, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the California suit, in a statement. “Yet, it appears that Carrier IQ (CIQ) has violated this trust. For example, Mr. Eckhart’s video shows CIQ software intercepting incoming text messages, and it also shows that the software captures dialed numbers and sensitive information sent through protected websites.”

The lawsuits are the latest twist in a controversy that began when security researcher Trevor Eckhart criticized the company, contending that the Carrier IQ software on his Android device recorded his keystrokes and logged SMS messages. Carrier IQ has countered that its software is only used to diagnose operational problems on networks and devices.

“While a few individuals have identified that there is a great deal of information available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset, our software does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video,” the company said in a statement Dec. 1. “For example, we understand whether an SMS was sent accurately, but do not record or transmit the content of the SMS. We know which applications are draining your battery, but do not capture the screen.”

“Operators want to provide better service to their customers, and information from the device and about the network is critical for them to do this,” the statement continues. “While in-network tools deliver information such as the location of calls and call quality, they do not provide information on the most important aspect of the service – the mobile device itself.”

Other security researchers have also weighed in and called some of the criticisms of Carrier IQ exaggerated.

In addition to the lawsuits, the controversy has created vibrations in the political realm as well, with U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) requesting in a letter that Carrier IQ answer questions about the situation.

“Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information,” Franken said, in a statement. 

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