Cellcos' key weapons threatened by Carrier IQ storm

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
12 Dec 2011

the row over use of the Carrier IQ tracking software

Handset makers were quick to distance themselves, or at least to shift responsibility to the operators, at whose request the software is normally installed. “Carrier IQ is required on devices by a number of US carriers,” said HTC said in a statement, claiming it was “investigating the option to allow consumers to opt out of data collection” by the app. Samsung also said it installed the software at the request of certain operators, but stressed that it had no access to the data collected.

Apple claims it stopped using Carrier IQ, a rootkit installed on handsets to run in the back-ground and monitor user activity, with the release of iOS 5.0. The firm “stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update,” said a spokesperson. Nokia and RIM both deny having any truck with the software, as does Verizon.

But in a different tack, Sprint and AT&T said in statements that the technology brought user benefits such as increased service performance, and that they used the software with strict adherence to privacy policies, and only for legitimate quality purposes. Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations at AT&T, declined to tell IDG whether Carrier IQ was present in all the carrier‟s handsets, what notice users have of its presence and whether they can turn it off.

A Sprint spokeswoman said the cellco uses Carrier IQ's data to understand device performance issues and to pre-empt problems. "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," she said.

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