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Carrier IQ data logging controversy prompts scrutiny from US Senate

post #1 of 99
Thread Starter 
Extensive data logging software known as "Carrier IQ" has been discovered to be secretly running on many mobile phones, including a number of handsets powered by Google Android, prompting one U.S. senator to demand answers from the company.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., issued a letter on Thursday to Carrier IQ and its CEO, Larry Lenhart, to explain exactly what his company's software records on users' phones and how it works. Franken's concern was prompted by Trevor Eckhart, a security researcher who has been digging into the presence of Carrier IQ on Android devices.

Eckhart uploaded a video demonstrating how Carrier IQ runs in the background on a stock HTC handset, even though the handset is in airplane mode operating only over Wi-Fi. Even though the handset was not connected to the Sprint network, the Carrier IQ software was tracked logging every action on the device, including key presses and even numbers dialed, even if the number was not called.

On the Android device tested by Eckhart, Carrier IQ continued to run and track user activity even though the software did not appear in Android's list of active processes.

The Carrier IQ software has been shown to be able to log extensive information, including when phones are turned and off, the contents of text messages they receive, what websites are visited on a phone, and even location data. Franken has asked the company to explain exactly what is recorded, whether it is transmitted to other companies, and if the company would allow users to stop this data logging.

"Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information," Franken said in a statement. "The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and possibly transmitted is deeply troubling.

"This news underscores the need for Congress to act swiftly to protect the location information and private, sensitive information of consumers. But right now, Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer."

The reach of Carrier IQ extends to Nokia, Research in Motion, and even previous versions of Apple's iOS platform, but research has shown that the logging abilities of the software were not nearly as extensive on Apple's platform prior to iOS 5. iOS hacker Grant Paul, known by his handle "chpwn," revealed in a blog post that Carrier IQ on the iPhone does not have access to the user interface layer, where text entry is done.

"I am reasonably sure it has no access to typed text, web history, passwords, browsing history, or text messages, and as such it is not sending any of this data remotely," he said. That's a stark contrast from Android, however, where Eckhart's tests have shown Carrier IQ's ability to record a great deal of information.

Apple issued a statement on Thursday to All Things D and revealed that Carrier IQ has not been a part of its iOS software since the release of iOS 5 in October, though traces of the inactive software do remain. The company also denied that it has collected any personal information from its users.

We stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update," the company's official statement reads. "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.

For its part, Carrier IQ has said that it is "counting and summarizing performance, not recording keystrokes or providing tracking tools." It claims its customers "have stringent policies and obligations on data collection and retention." The company's website boasts that its software is installed on more than 141 million handsets.



Franken challenged both Apple and Google earlier this year when it was revealed that a detailed log of location data was stored on users' iPhones. Apple explained that the data was stored as a result of a software bug, and quickly addressed the issue with a software update in the form of iOS 4.3.3.

Apple and Google also explained their privacy policies in a public hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Bud Tribble, Apple's vice president of software technology, explained that his company makes user privacy one of its highest priorities, and revealed that Apple conducts random audits to ensure that developers follow App Store rules.

While the previous scrutiny from Franken was focused on mobile platforms created by Google and Apple, this latest inquiry could prove to be more about U.S. carriers. The Verge's Nilay Patel reported on Thursday that "pure" Google devices that ship with stock Android, including Nexus phones and the original Xoom tablet, do not include Carrier IQ tracking software.

"Each of those devices was launched in direct partnership with Google as the flagship for a new version of Android, so it seems that the addition of Carrier IQ comes from OEMs and carriers after Google open-sources Android's code," he wrote. "Carriers requiring manufacturers to include Carrier IQ would also explain why references to the software have been found in iOS -- Apple works much more closely with carriers since it builds both the hardware and software of the iPhone."



The full text of Franken's letter to Carrier IQ is included below:

Dear Mr. Lenhart,

I am very concerned by recent reports that your companys softwarepre-installed on smartphones used by millions of Americansis logging and may be transmitting extraordinarily sensitive information from consumers phones, including:

when they turn their phones on;
when they turn their phones off;
the phone numbers they dial;
the contents of text messages they receive;
the URLs of the websites they visit;
the contents of their online search querieseven when those searches are encrypted; and
the location of the customer using the smartphoneeven when the customer has expressly denied permission for an app that is currently running to access his or her location.

It appears that this software runs automatically every time you turn your phone on. It also appears that an average user would have no way to know that this software is runningand that when that user finds out, he or she will have no reasonable means to remove or stop it.

These revelations are especially concerning in light of Carrier IQs public assertions that it is "not recording keystrokes or providing tracking tools" (November 16), "[d]oes not record your keystrokes," and "[d]oes not inspect or report on the content of your communications, such as the content of emails and SMSs" (November 23).

I understand the need to provide usage and diagnostic information to carriers. I also understand that carriers can modify Carrier IQs software. But it appears that Carrier IQs software captures a broad swath of extremely sensitive information from users that would appear to have nothing to do with diagnosticsincluding who they are calling, the contents of the texts they are receiving, the contents of their searches, and the websites they visit.

These actions may violate federal privacy laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This is potentially a very serious matter.

I ask that you provide answers to the following questions by December 14, 2011.

(1) Does Carrier IQ software log users' location?

(2) What other data does Carrier IQ software log? Does it log:
a. The telephone numbers users dial?
b. The telephone numbers of individuals calling a user?
c. The contents of the text messages users receive?
d. The contents of the text messages users send?
e. The contents of the emails they receive?
f. The contents of the emails users send?
g. The URLs of the websites that users visit?
h. The contents of users online search queries?
i. The names or contact information from users address books?
j. Any other keystroke data?

(3) What if any of this data is transmitted off of a users phone? When? In what form?

(4) Is that data transmitted to Carrier IQ? Is it transmitted to smartphone manufacturers, operating system providers, or carriers? Is it transmitted to any other third parties?

(5) If Carrier IQ receives this data, does it subsequently share it with third parties? With whom does it share this data? What data is shared?

(6) Will Carrier IQ allow users to stop any logging and transmission of this data?

(7) How long does Carrier IQ store this data?

(8) Has Carrier IQ disclosed this data to federal or state law enforcement?

(9) How does Carrier IQ protect this data against hackers and other security threats?

(10) Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, including the federal wiretap statute (18 U.S.C. § 2511 et seq.), the pen register statute (18 USC § 3121 et seq.), and the Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.)?

(11) Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030)? Why?

I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

AL FRANKEN
Chairman, Subcommittee on Privacy
Technology and the Law
post #2 of 99
Gosh, that list reads like a bunch of 3rd grade essay assignment questions. And that's for the best, as often in investigations like this, the organization under scrutiny can't seem to give proper answers to questions at higher intellectual levels.
post #3 of 99
post #4 of 99
What's sauce for the goose.... etc.

post #5 of 99
So, the complete contents of Fandroid's text messages are able to be read and every website that they visit is tracked? That's hilarious.
post #6 of 99
This will get interesting when the class action lawsuits begin. Not only is there an invasion of privacy issue, but perhaps a fraud issue if the data being sent uses up data that the consumer is paying for.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #7 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Gosh, that list reads like a bunch of 3rd grade essay assignment questions. And that's for the best, as often in investigations like this, the organization under scrutiny can't seem to give proper answers to questions at higher intellectual levels.

I think his questions are reasonable and straight to the point.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazda 3s View Post

Apple comments:

http://mobile.theverge.com/2011/12/1...cts-with-ios-5

Apple's comment:
We stopped supporting CarrierIQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update. 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. I dont think we've gotten any info about what the Android devices that launched issue actually send to some remote server but we do know there are devices that logging high-level data entries. RiM, Verizon, and Apple have already made statements that show users' personal information isn't at risk.

Google has also stated they don't include Carrier IQ in Android but that doesn't mean much when your OS is open for all vendors and carriers can include rootkits and keyloggers.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

So, the complete contents of Fandroid's text messages are able to be read and every website that they visit is tracked? That's hilarious.

Certain devices/carriers. This isn't something that part of Android by default. That said, that doesn't make Android look good and could affect sales for all Android-based devices because some are installing rootkits and keyloggers.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

This will get interesting when the class action lawsuits begin. Not only is there an invasion of privacy issue, but perhaps a fraud issue if the data being sent uses up data that the consumer is paying for.

10 to 1 odds Apple will be sued first.

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post #8 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

10 to 1 odds Apple will be sued first.

That's a given.
post #9 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

So, the complete contents of Fandroid's text messages are able to be read and every website that they visit is tracked? That's hilarious.

It's a carrier issue, not an Android issue. The Nexus phones, among with others, do not feature this tracking software at all.
post #10 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

This will get interesting when the class action lawsuits begin. Not only is there an invasion of privacy issue, but perhaps a fraud issue if the data being sent uses up data that the consumer is paying for.

LOL maybe this would explain the iPad/iphone OVERCHARGES for DATA at&T kept charging for! funny, maybe not...
post #11 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

It's a carrier issue, not an Android issue. The Nexus phones, among with others, do not feature this tracking software at all.

It could be a vendor issue, too, and with Apple it clearly is installed by the vendor, but that's beside the point. We should be focusing on the data that is recorded and how it's sent, not simply because it's included in some regard. As we've been informed it's opt-in for Apple never had used a keylogger, and only sent anonymous data. Is that the case with all Android-based devices on all carriers? If it is, then this isn't an issue for Android as a whole, but if it isn't it could effect even Android-based vendors that weren't playing an underhanded datamining game.

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post #12 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Certain devices/carriers. This isn't something that part of Android by default. That said, that doesn't make Android look good and could affect sales for all Android-based devices because some are installing rootkits and keyloggers.

Yeah, it said that "pure" Google devices that run stock do not have the carrier IQ tracking, but that's probably only a tiny percentage of all Android devices sold.

That's bad news for everybody else.

I also think that most people are clueless and they don't really care about being tracked. What about Amazon's Silk browser? That sounds like datamining heaven right there.
post #13 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

It's a carrier issue, not an Android issue. The Nexus phones, among with others, do not feature this tracking software at all.

And how many Android users own "pure" Android phones?

Aren't there only a few of those, VS hundreds of "unpure" Android phones?
post #14 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

It's a carrier issue, not an Android issue. ...

Not to pick on you but this exact defence word for word is being bandied around a lot today so I'd like to point out how completely untrue it is.

Sure, it's the carriers that made the software and put it on the phone, but it's Google's choice to let the carriers put this kind of crap on the phone, to not control what it accesses, to not even really *have* a decent security policy of any kind.

This is so totally "an Android problem." It's one of the reasons everyone cheered when Apple entered the business as this kind of crap has been going on for years and years (the software itself is quite old), and it took Apple to actually stand up to it and say they wouldn't allow it on their phone. Google could easily have done the same but they didn't.

Google's customer is the carrier, not the phone user.

Totally Google's fault IMO and completely on purpose. Not even a mistake.
post #15 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


Totally Google's fault IMO and completely on purpose. Not even a mistake.




Is Google the most evil company in the history of the world?



post #16 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

And how many Android users own "pure" Android phones?

Aren't there only a few of those, VS hundreds of "unpure" Android phones?

Verizon already said that they do not use Carrier IQ - that is the largest Android Block in the USA
post #17 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Gosh, that list reads like a bunch of 3rd grade essay assignment questions. And that's for the best, as often in investigations like this, the organization under scrutiny can't seem to give proper answers to questions at higher intellectual levels.

Most documentation, instructions, and any information like this that's basically for public consumption and where clarity is key, are deliberately written to a grade 12 comprehension level.

In this case, the key is indeed clarity, and the audience is really Franken's constituents (i.e. - the average janet or john doe.)
post #18 of 99
Well, know you know that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. reads this site.
Welcome Senator, glad to have you.
post #19 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by ConradJoe View Post

Is Google the most evil company in the history of the world?

No.

Stalin's pretzel factory perhaps.

Google is pretty evil though. An almost Microsoftian level of evil in fact.

This is especially ironic since Google is the only company in living memory to actually claim that they *aren't* evil, and to have "do no evil" as their motto.

They should seriously consider dropping that.
post #20 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I think his questions are reasonable and straight to the point.

I do as well but wonder why the request is not to the DoJ assess and investigate.
post #21 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by agramonte View Post

Verizon already said that they do not use Carrier IQ - that is the largest Android Block in the USA

If that's true, then it's weird that Verizon doesn't make commercials boasting about that. It would be far more effective than any other commercial that they could ever air and it would be a big blow to the competition.

Verizon commercial - Our competitors (AT&T, SPRINT ?) spies on you, tracks all your calls, reads your text messages and completely violates your privacy every single day. We don't do that, choose us.

Who would want to sign up with somebody who rapes you and spies on you?
post #22 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

No.

Stalin's pretzel factory perhaps.

Google is pretty evil though. An almost Microsoftian level of evil in fact.

This is especially ironic since Google is the only company in living memory to actually claim that they *aren't* evil, and to have "do no evil" as their motto.

They should seriously consider dropping that.

Maybe in favour of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". Seems to be the case here.

The software in itself isn't evil though. The spotlight should be on the carriers right now - AT&T have stayed pretty quiet so far.
post #23 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

No.

Stalin's pretzel factory perhaps.

Google is pretty evil though. An almost Microsoftian level of evil in fact.

This is especially ironic since Google is the only company in living memory to actually claim that they *aren't* evil, and to have "do no evil" as their motto.

They should seriously consider dropping that.

Google will obviously have a different definition for Evil than you or I. ("I did NOT have sex with that woman , however, I did have a relationship with a cigar"- a great example of parsing words from a do-no-evil politician.
post #24 of 99
April 21, 2011. Government officials voice concern to Apple over location tracking

Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Slow news day. Franken should be more concerned with creating jobs and helping get this country back in the black.


May 25, 2011. US Sen. Franken calls on Apple, Google to require app privacy policies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinemagic View Post

Sen. Al Franken is still an idiot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenwk View Post

Hey Al, you must have too much free time as this has become your #1 priority.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenwk View Post

I think Al wants to create another department for this so the govn't can hire more workers to bring down the unemployment rate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davesmall View Post

Agreed. The best outcome would be for Senator Franken to resign and just go away. He's a jerk and he puts a face on the term 'bozo.'


June 15, 2011. Bill introduced in US Senate to enforce mobile privacy laws on Apple, Google

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigmc6000 View Post

I'm sorry but I just can't take anything Al Franken says seriously. He really should have just stuck with comedy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radster360 View Post

Don't we have bigger issue to deal with in this country? This is utter waste of tax payers money. Here are two companies who are innovative, but leave it up to the government to muck it up! Al, go back to SNL - they might need you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinemagic View Post

Al Franken is still an idiot.


October 13, 2011. US senators propose bill to require 'accurate 4G information for consumers'

Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Al Franken should have stuck to SNL.

Everyone would have been better off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ezduzit View Post

<Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn>

a proposal from hell by three of the worst legislators in congress.


December 1, 2011. Carrier IQ data logging controversy prompts scrutiny from US Senate

Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I think his questions are reasonable and straight to the point

Quote:
Originally Posted by 801 View Post

Well, know you know that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. reads this site.
Welcome Senator, glad to have you.

When Al Franken questions Apple about privacy practices, he is trashed and dismissed. But when he is questioning other companies, we are all cheering him on.
post #25 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bagman View Post

Google will obviously have a different definition for Evil than you or I. ("I did NOT have sex with that woman , however, I did have a relationship with a cigar"- a great example of parsing words from a do-no-evil politician.

I've dated some Cubans, but never a cigar.

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post #26 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by holmstockd View Post

LOL maybe this would explain the iPad/iphone OVERCHARGES for DATA at&T kept charging for! funny, maybe not...

Wouldn't be surprised if this is why users saw data transmissions on their bills occuring at 2AM.
post #27 of 99
I can't talk now we're not alone.
post #28 of 99
Doesn't bother me too much. Besides, only the iPhone 4 has the carrier IQ installed. I am not interesting enough to be worried about being spied on.
post #29 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by holmstockd View Post

LOL maybe this would explain the iPad/iphone OVERCHARGES for DATA at&T kept charging for! funny, maybe not...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post

Wouldn't be surprised if this is why users saw data transmissions on their bills occuring at 2AM.

The question is if the following above was true, could AT&T customers actually DO anything about it? Doesn't AT&T have that Anti-arbitration clause in the contracts thanks to the supreme court?
post #30 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Gosh, that list reads like a bunch of 3rd grade essay assignment questions. And that's for the best, as often in investigations like this, the organization under scrutiny can't seem to give proper answers to questions at higher intellectual levels.

Remarkable how politicians can get to the point when they have to, yet spend a lot of the time going round and round using lots of words without really saying anything.
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post #31 of 99
Things we know if we take replies at face value.
  1. Google has no affiliation with Carrier IQ.
  2. Verizon has no affiliation with Carrier IQ.
  3. Vendors such as Apple, RiM and HTC have some affiliation with Carrier IQ.
  4. Some vendors are blaming carriers for Carrier IQ being installed on their devices.
  5. Apple's affiliation requires the user to opt-in and only records well documented data that is in the legal agreement.
  6. Only Android-based phones have been found to include keyloggers.

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post #32 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

Besides, only the iPhone 4 has the carrier IQ installed.

How do we know that?
post #33 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

If that's true, then it's weird that Verizon doesn't make commercials boasting about that.

Really? You're serious aren't you.
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post #34 of 99
I wonder why the carriers/manufacturers (including apple) would risk this kind of thing? Who in their right minds wants this kind of surveillance on their phones? I sure don't. If I read that my phone has it, it is going into the toilet and I will join a class action lawsuit against my carrier and phone manufacturer.

I think this story has legs. Go Franken Go!

As far as Google thinking that they are blameless in this mess- good luck with that. Consumers tend to paint with broad strokes.....
post #35 of 99
SO now we know the real reason why the carriers love Android so much... its OPEN and by open it means we can pretty much do what the hell we like to make money off you and have you pay for its transmission to us.... "DO NO EVIL" what a fracking joke

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post #36 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

When Al Franken questions Apple about privacy practices, he is trashed and dismissed. But when he is questioning other companies, we are all cheering him on.

Your inability to see a difference between opt-in cell tower location data being backed up in iTunes and a keylogger program installed on some Android-based devices is pretty much right on par with the rest of your ineffectual reading and writing skills.

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post #37 of 99
Sen. Franken,

I trust you will also be launching investigations into the various ways the U.S. government collects data...

post #38 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Your inability to see a difference between opt-in cell tower location data being backed up in iTunes and a keylogger program installed on some Android-based devices is pretty much right on par with the rest of your ineffectual reading and writing skills.

And, you could have added, his inability to see that it lasted all of a few weeks in Apple's case, and the company had voluntarily taken it out ahead of all the brouhaha.....
post #39 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

It's a carrier issue, not an Android issue. The Nexus phones, among with others, do not feature this tracking software at all.

Baloney. enabling telcos to customize Android however they wish is at the very heart of its "open" design and business plan. and whatever happened to the "Open Handset Alliance" that was supposed to set privacy standards for its members. oops. never happened, did it ...

it's like Google hands a free gun to a homicidal maniac and then claims it had no role in the murder he commits with it. bullshit.
post #40 of 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Really? You're serious aren't you.

What makes you think that I wasn't serious?

If carrier A violates people's privacy and carrier B doesn't, then why wouldn't carrier B use that to their advantage?
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