That was nothing compared to the stir Carrier IQ’s been causing over the past week.
You see, the mobile intelligence company developed a program found in many smartphones that’s geared toward helping carriers monitor performance.
Sounds harmless, right?
Well, in reality, the program has the ability to track virtually anything you do on your phone.
Security researcher, Trevor Eckhart, discovered that the software monitors everything from secure web browser activity, phone numbers dialed, text messages sent, location, and powering the phone on and off.
In other words, it’s collecting a ton of information that networks don’t even need. And so far, no one knows exactly why it’s being gathered, or how much information is transmitted to the networks afterward.
Worst of all, there’s not much you can do to stop it…
Spy Software You Can’t Delete
If you have an Android phone, good luck even trying to find the application on your device.
Eckhart shows that it’s not in the phone’s main application drawer. And the program doesn’t ask your permission to kick in. It’s just there, running quietly in the background, as soon as you turn your phone on.
Heck, even if you do pin down the application, you can’t stop it unless you root (i.e. – hack) your phone. Which, of course, isn’t practical for most consumers.
Luckily, the software isn’t on every phone made. For the most part, it looks like hardware makers only build the program into devices if the carrier wants it. So if you’re on Verizon (NYSE: VZ) – which doesn’t work with Carrier IQ – you’re good to go.
That is… unless you have an iPhone. Yes, Carrier IQ has even found its way into Apple’s tightly controlled ecosystem. But the tech giant announced that it’s preparing an update that would remove the software completely.
Either way, I’m not sure this is something you should be losing sleep over. Personally, I don’t see the big deal with T-Mobile knowing where I ate lunch this week and how many times I check Facebook today.
But not everyone is taking this news as lightly as me. You see, these privacy issues could mean serious consequences for the mobile intelligence firm in the coming weeks…
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It’s Not Looking Good for Carrier IQ
Cell phone carriers have the ability to monitor network activity legally in order to ensure performance quality. And usually they ask for permission when tracking our mobile activity or using our location data.
But since Carrier IQ is recording our information without approval, the company might be violating federal wiretapping laws.
A Twitter post last week from former Justice Department prosecutor, Paul Ohm, confirms this. He says that if what Eckhart says about Carrier IQ “is accurate, this is a clear, massive, felony wiretap. Carrier IQ, prepare for a multi-million-dollar class action lawsuit… Federal wiretapping is a five-year felony.”
Sure enough, three such lawsuits have already sprung up.
TechCrunch reports that “two class action lawsuits – one from Missouri and the other from Illinois – have been filed against [Carrier IQ ] for supposedly violating the Federal Wiretap Act.”
Bottom line: The ongoing legal action promises to draw increased attention to concerns over consumer privacy. And while companies look for a way to rebuild trust in their brands, you can expect mobile security companies, like CertiVox, to get a major boost in the months ahead.