Carrier IQ: What Canadians Need to Know?

by Gaurav Kheterpal on December 5, 2011

The Carrier IQ story has all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster – crime, denial, confession, drama and lastly the public anxiety which would make you sit at the edge of your seats. Sadly though, not everyone understands what the fuss is all about.

In this post, I hope to stay away from the sensationalism and make an honest attempt to uncover the real truth behind the Carrier IQ controversy. Does its software really track the personal data of cell phone users? Are Canadian wireless carriers involved? Why on earth would your wireless carrier want to log user information and behaviours and send data to mobile carriers?

Let’s try and find some answers to this puzzle.

The controversy began when researcher Trevor Eckhart published a report claiming Carrier IQ makes software that allows customers like Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T to track a user’s cell phone location and activity for troubleshooting purposes. What’s more, tracked activity includes practically everything that you can think of- texts, call history, apps used, and location history. While it’s strongly believed that the objective of collecting such information is to locate E911 callers or “make it easier for law enforcement to track a phone if a dangerous criminal was on the loose,” there’s no doubt that it’s a massive privacy beach from a user’s perspective. Eckhart exposed the functionality of the software, and even captured additional training materials posted on the Carrier IQ website.

Though Carrier IQ initially denied Eckhart’s claims and bullied him with a cease-and-desist letter, it eventually backed down and apologized. And since then several carriers including AT&T and Sprint have acknowledged that they use Carrier IQ, but said it was for network performance purposes and strongly denied any involvement in user tracking. On the other hand, device manufacturers have steered clear of the debate stating that carriers decide as to whether Carrier IQ would be included on their handsets.

As expected, the Carrier IQ episode has set the alarm bells ringing among carriers, platform providers and device manufacturers alike.  Apple, HTC and Samsung have acknowledged the presence of Carrier IQ on their handsets in some form or the other but they defend themselves stating that either it’s mainly for diagnostic data or that they plan to remove it completely in a future software update.

So, what exactly is the problem? As The Verge points out, there are 3 major issues – 1) Carrier IQ is collecting too much data without user consent 2) There’s no way a user can opt out of Carrier IQ and 3) It stores data in an unencrypted form thereby raising concerns about a massive security breach.

So, do Canadians need to be worried about Carrier IQ? Bell, Rogers and Telus say they do not have contracts with Carrier IQ so there’s no question of any intelligence software being installed on their devices. Virgin, Fido and Videotron have denied installing Carrier IQ on any of their devices either. Interestingly, MobileSyrup reports that a tipster sent them evidence of Carrier IQ being present on a Rogers LG Phoenix Android device (model number P505R). Those claims are yet to be confirmed though.

So, as things stand now, Canadians can breathe easy on the Carrier IQ threat. However, can you rule out any Canadian wireless carriers trying to cover up the truth? I, for sure, won’t rule that out. What about you? Please share your views by leaving a comment.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby:RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ZZaR December 6, 2011 at 12:42 am

Quote, “Bell, Rogers and Telus say they do not have contracts with Carrier IQ so there’s no question of any intelligence software being installed on their devices.”, unquote. Maybe that TELUS is aware of at this point or what they want their customers to believe. On my wife’s phone, a TELUS Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate 4G+, CIQ is detected in the following locations in the root of the phone, ROM Binaries and Daemons: /system/xbin/iqbridged and Suspicious Classes: com.carrieriq.iqagent.service.receivers.bootcompletedreceiver. Detected using Voodoo CarrierIQ Detector v.2.0.5. TELUS will be getting a call tomorrow… from a landline!

RossM December 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

Anyone who has examined the Permissions when installing apps knows that most apps require total unfettered access to the entire content and communications of their smartphones. I mean, really, why do TD Bank, Royal Bank & Scotiabank ask for access to my emails, contacts, pictures, and more? Because they can, and they get away with it. That’s not to say they’re the only ones – look at your Application Permissions setting and you’ll be blown away how exposed you are. And of course, if you were to ask the app providers, they’ll swear up & down they’d never, ever, ever use all that data – who, them? Your friendly multinational uber-powerful business conglomerate. Heh heh heh, no way, not them!!

Download at your peril.

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