That half-conspiracy theory is proving to be more reality with the revelation that as many as 150 million smart devices used on a daily basis in the U.S. contain Carrier IQ software. This software is able to track all a smartphone’s activities, anything from passwords, usernames, search histories, and even individual keystrokes.
Not only does this put a smartphone user’s personal information at risk of being stolen by hackers, it also raises serious privacy questions as most consumers are likely unaware of the presence of this software of their phones. In response, the U.S. Senate is being joined by the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission in launching an investigation into the use of Carrier IQ software.
According to a consumer alert from the Web site Public Health Watchdog, citing a report in a recent edition of Washington Post, major wireless carriers have or still employ the use of Carrier IQ software on their many devices, including the likes of Apple, AT&T, T-Moble, and Sprint.
The makers of Carrier IQ claim they are not tracking any smartphone user’s personal data but they never disclosed the fact that its product was capable of doing so when it was initially released.
Sen. Al Franken, one investigating the matter on Capitol Hill, said he sent letters to major wireless carriers and to Carrier IQ looking for answers in the last year, when a study authored by a prominent security expert found evidence that the software was tracking people’s activities on their phones. This week, Franken said, “It appears that Carrier IQ has been receiving the contents of a number of text messages — even though they had told the public that they did not. I’m also bothered by the software’s ability to capture the contents of our online searches-even when users wish to encrypt them. So there are still many questions to be answered here and things that need to be fixed.”
Carrier IQ says it is not collecting personal information but still hasn’t really explained the purpose of its software since it seems to have that sole purpose. Major wireless carriers could be gathering this information, like search histories, to sell to major advertisers who use consumer behaviors to target ads at specific persons. Storing keystroke data is often used by those aiming to commit credit card or bank fraud. By copying keystrokes, any hacker can determine vital information such as credit card and Social Security numbers.