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Saturday December 17, 2011 9:18 am

Senator Al Franken ‘Troubled’ by Carrier IQ investigation results


Sen. Al Franken this week said he is still "very troubled" by the technology deployed by Carrier IQ despite the fact that the company—as well as AT&T, Sprint, Samsung, and HTC—released details about how they use Carrier IQ software.

"People have a fundamental right to control their private information," Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said in a statement. "After reading the companies' responses, I'm still concerned that this right is not being respected."

Of particular concern was the fact that Carrier IQ was receiving the contents of users' text messages after say it did not, as well as the software's ability to collect online search data.

"There are still many questions to be answered here and things that need to be fixed," Franken said.

"We appreciate Subcommittee Chairman Franken's continued interest in protecting consumer privacy and look forward to our ongoing dialogue with the Senator to answer his additional questions," Carrier IQ said in a statement.


Carrier IQ made headlines in recent weeks after a researcher, Trevor Eckhart, suggested that the technology is secretly embedded on many popular phones and can gather personal data about users. Carrier IQ said its technology is used for diagnostic purposes and denied logging keystrokes or being able to read the content of emails, text messages, or Web sites.

Sen. Franken penned letters to Carrier IQ, as well as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Samsung, and HTC—all companies that use Carrier IQ in some capacity—asking them for more details about its use on their devices. Yesterday, his office published the responses from Carrier IQ, as well as AT&T, Sprint, Samsung, and HTC. T-Mobile has until Dec. 20 to respond.

What did they reveal? AT&T said that Carrier IQ is on 1 percent of its devices, or about 900,000. Sprint said it is on 26 million of its devices, but only collecting data from about 1.3 million of those handsets. Samsung and HTC said they install Carrier IQ on certain phones at the request of their carrier partners. See below for more details from each company.

AT&T
AT&T is collecting data on 11 of its devices and it is embedded, but not active, on three other smartphones—the HTC Vivid, LG Nitro, and Samsung Skyrocket— because the software might "interfere with the performance of those devices," AT&T said.

The devices with Carrier IQ include: Pantech Pursuit II, Pantech Breeze 3, Pantech P5000 (Link2), Pantech Pocket, Sierra Wireless Shockwave, LG Thrill, ZTE Avail, ZTE Z331, SEMC Xperia Play, Motorola Atrix 2, and Motorola Bravo.

Carrier IQ was first added to AT&T devices in March 2011 with the Motorola Bravo. It is also included in AT&T's Mark the Spot (MTS) app, which allows customers to provide feedback on network performance. Carrier IQ was added to MTS on BlackBerry in February and to the Android version in March.

AT&T said Carrier IQ is on about 900,000 devices, with 575,000 of those actually reporting data to AT&T. Carrier IQ tells AT&T the date, time, and location of an event, like dialed or received call, dropped call, or attempted call with no signal.

Uploads of Carrier IQ data to AT&T servers happen once every 24 hours and data is erased after 60 days.

AT&T admitted that a glitch with Carrier IQ allowed for the collection of text messages that were received while a voice call was in progress. AT&T said it did not access those messages, but would not have been able to regardless because they were encrypted. AT&T is holding on to the data due to ongoing litigation.

Sprint
Carrier IQ is on 26 million Sprint devices, but the carrier only collects data from about 1.3 million devices.

Sprint did not specify exactly which phones have Carrier IQ installed except to say that they include devices from Audiovox, Franklin, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Novatel, Palmone, Samsung, Sanyo, and Sierra Wireless.

Sprint started working with Carrier IQ in 2006. The company stores Carrier IQ data on its servers for 30 to 45 days, keeps the raw data for six months, and saves reports from Carrier IQ for one year.

Samsung
Samsung said some of its carrier partners require it to pre-install Carrier IQ software on devices prior to sale. "Samsung installs Carrier IQ software only at the instruction of cellular carriers and does so in the exact manner and in the configuration required by the carrier and Carrier IQ," Samsung said.

Samsung receives no data from Carrier IQ, the company said.

Carrier IQ is currently installed on devices for AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, and Sprint, Samsung said. The company provided a list of phone model numbers with Carrier IQ, and that includes the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, as well as devices like the Samsung Instinct HD, Samsung M320, Samsung Highnote, Samsung Rant, Samsung Transform, Samsung Conquer 4G, Samsung Replenish, and Samsung Galaxy Prevail.

HTC
HTC had a response similar to that of Samsung; "HTC does not use Carrier IQ software for its own purposes," the company said.

HTC devices that have Carrier IQ installed include the Snap, TouchPro2, Hero, EVO 4G, EVO Shift 4G, EVO 3D, and EVO Design, the Vivid, and the Amazon 4G.

This article, written by Chloe Albanesius, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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