Senator Al Franken pressed AT&T, Sprint, Samsung, and HTC over two weeks ago for answers about their use of Carrier IQ, the controversial monitoring software that sparked fears that our personal data was being tracked without consent. Now that the deadline has come and gone, Senator Franken had a chance to review their statements and publish them in full on his website.
After reviewing each company’s official responses to his questions, Senator Franken noted that he’s still “very troubled” by the situation at hand:
“People have a fundamental right to control their private information,” he said. “After reading the companies’ responses, I’m still concerned that this right is not being respected. The average user of any device equipped with Carrier IQ software has no way of knowing that this software is running, what information it is getting, and who it is giving it to-and that’s a problem.”
Everything began with Carrier IQ, who was the first party Senator Franken asked for more information. Their response [PDF] was one of those published on the Senator’s website, but given how transparent they have been after their initial attempt to contest Trevor Eckhart’s findings backfired, there isn’t much new material to cover.
In short, they state that Carrier IQ’s data collection consists of carrier-specified metrics, doesn’t track the content of emails or text messages, doesn’t happen in real-time, and is encrypted. They also fess up to a recently-discovered bug in which SMS messages may inadvertently be sent to Carrier IQ along with other diagnostic data, but they’re apparently hard at work on a fix.
Not bad, but some of the really juicy stuff comes from everyone else Franken wanted answers from. Let’s take a look:
AT&T notes that out of all of their wireless customers, only around 1% of them use devices that have Carrier IQ installed on them. This figure translates into roughly 900,000 customers — not a number to sneeze at, but one that pales in comparison to Sprint.
The company goes on to outline different types of Carrier IQ-enabled devices. The following devices are said to have the CIQ software “integrated and active”: the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, Pantech Pursuit II, Pantech Breeze 3, Pantech Link 2, Sierra Wireless Shockwave, LG Thrill, ZTE Avail, ZTE Z331, Motorola Atrix 2, and the Motorola Bravo. Furthermore, the software is present (but not active) on the HTC Vivid, LG Nitro, and Samsung’s Galaxy S II Skyrocket.
Carrier IQ is also present in the BlackBerry and Android versions of AT&T’s Mark the Spot app, which allows users to mark their particular location if they experience call drops or network issues. The app originally debuted on the iPhone in late 2009, albeit without the CIQ software as part of it. AT&T also notes that the diagnostic data is erased from their CIQ servers after 60 days have gone by.
It should come as no surprise at this point that Sprint is one of Carrier IQ’s most prominent carrier partners: the two companies have been working together since 2006, and with nearly 26 million (!) Sprint devices currently have the diagnostic monitoring software.
That doesn’t mean, however, that 26 million devices get pinged at the same time; rather, only 1.3 million of those devices can send information at once. Much like AT&T though, Sprint repeatedly mentions that none of the data that Carrier IQ collects is human-readable, or is shared with other parties. Sprint also mentions that Carrier IQ stores user data on Sprint’s behalf for between 30 and 45 days, and Sprint stores Carrier IQ’s raw data for up to six months.
Sprint doesn’t list every device of theirs that has Carrier IQ installed, probably for the sake of brevity. They do however give up a list of device vendors on whose wares Carrier IQ runs, and it’s quite a doozy: Audiovox, Franklin, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Novatel, Palmone, Sanyo, and Sierra Wireless
According the company’s best estimates, around 6.3 million HTC devices in the United States have Carrier IQ installed on them. They mention that in none of those cases did HTC install Carrier IQ of their volition; rather, they did so at the request of individual carrier partners. The company repeatedly states that they aren’t an “intended recipient” of Carrier IQ’s diagnostic data, and therefore have no access to it, but that doesn’t mean some of the data isn’t being stored anyway.
As noted by Trevor Eckhart in his tests with an Evo 3D, some data (think key inputs, locations, etc.) are in fact being stored in a log file on the device, which Carrier IQ has stated should not be happening. HTC doesn’t mention as much in their response, probably because it’s outside the scope of the senator’s line of questioning, but hopefully they address the situation soon. While we wait for further clarification from HTC on why that data is being stored in a log file on their devices, here are the all the devices that currently run Carrier IQ:
That’s not all though — HTC also mentions that “components of Carrier IQ” exist on the Merge, Acquire, Desire, Wildfire, Flyer and an unnamed variant of Hero.
Like HTC, Samsung has installed Carrier IQ on their devices at the request of the carriers, and they number of affected devices is pretty impressive. Samsung pegs the number of devices they have sold in the U.S. with Carrier IQ installed at nearly 23 million, all of which run the gamut as far as price, operating system and carrier.
If you’ve been paying attention to the Carrier IQ situation, then you may remember that Carrier IQ was discovered to be running on Samsung smartphones very early on. Now, thanks to their response to Sen. Franken’s inquiry, here’s the full list of Samsung devices that have Carrier IQ installed (in one form or another).
Like HTC, it also appears that some Samsung devices contain “dormant” CIQ, which could trigger false positives when run through one of the many Carrier IQ detection apps. Samsung hasn’t disclosed with devices have this dormant code, but I imagine devs and enthusiasts will have a pretty comprehensive list worked up before long.