AT&T and Sprint acknowledge use of Carrier IQ

The Carrier IQ issue continues to unravel as phone manufacturers and some carriers fall over each other in the rush to distance themselves from any involvement with it and the company which produces it.

Following Nokia’s lead, RIM said that it “does not pre-install the CarrierIQ app on BlackBerry smartphones or authorize its carrier partners to install the CarrierIQ app before sales or distribution.”

The Register reports that HTC and Samsung piped up to say that they do, indeed, install the software onto their devices when asked by certain carriers who buy their devices, but that they have nothing to do with the collecting of the data it gathers.

“We stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update,” commented Apple in a statement given to John Paczkowski. “With any diagnostic data sent to Apple, customers must actively opt-in to share this information, and if they do, the data is sent in an anonymous and encrypted form and does not include any personal information. We never recorded keystrokes, messages or any other personal information for diagnostic data and have no plans to ever do so.”

While Verizon, the biggest U.S. carrier, denied using Carrier IQ, AT&T and Sprint acknowledged it. “We collect enough information to understand the customer experience with devices on our network and how to address any connection problems, but we do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool. The information collected is not sold and we don’t provide a direct feed of this data to anyone outside of Sprint,” it said the statement released by the latter company, and the claim was echoed by AT&T.

Meanwhile, the Mountain View-based manufacturer of Carrier IQ has finally broken the self-imposed media silence and has issued a statement reiterating their initial claims: “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. 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.”

All the data that Carrier IQ does collect is determined by the different carriers. “They make that decision based on their privacy standards and their agreement with their users, and we implement it,” said Carrier IQ CEO Larry Lenhart to All Things D. “What’s actually gathered, stored and transmitted to the carrier is determined by its end-user agreement. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, the carriers are highly sensitive about what data they’re allowed to capture and what they’re not allowed to capture.”

The company’s new press release contains also a statement by a security expert that has examined the Carrier IQ implementation and says the allegations regarding what it is able to do are erroneous.

I believe we’ll be hearing about this for yet a while, as allegations such as these need to be thoroughly investigated by a number of experts. In the meantime, the issue has captured the attention of U.S. Senator Al Franken, who has sent a letter to Lenhart pointing out that the company software may be violating the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

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