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Is Your Smartphone Spying on You? Miami Lawsuit Targets "Invasive" Carrier IQ Software

Categories: Silicon Beach
photo by John Karakansantis via Wikimedia Commons
What if your smartphone has secretly tracked everything you've done for the past two years: every Google search, every website, every key stroke -- not to mention everywhere you've traveled? Sounds like a paranoid fantasy from Enemy of the State, but that's exactly what a secret bit of phone software made by a company called Carrier IQ seems to have done to millions of BlackBerry, Nokia, and Android phones.

An analyst discovered the covert software last month, and a group of Miami residents is now suing the California company for breaching their privacy. "This software is literally a secret agent placed in your phone with the sole purpose of relaying your actions back to the company," says Daniel Dolan, one of the lawyers behind the suit.

To understand the lawsuit, it's worth recounting the recent Clancy-plot-worthy discovery of the software.

Last month, a 25-year-old analyst named Trevor Eckhart published a startling revelation on his blog: A standard program installed on his smartphone appeared to be tracking almost everything he was doing.

The discovery set off an explosion across the geekosphere. Carrier IQ's software was installed on millions of phones -- every Samsung phone with Android and every BlackBerry since 2009.

Company execs quickly released a video explaining the software tracked only "metrics" -- such as how often calls are dropped and where -- but they later admitted they also could read texts, see keystrokes, and collect mounds of other data.

Dolan filed suit against the company December 2 on behalf of seven Miamians whose phones had the secretive software onboard (an action mirrored in recent weeks by dozens of other plaintiffs across the nation). He says Carrier IQ's program clearly violated their privacy rights.

"The company's story has changed several times, and it keeps getting rebutted," Dolan says. "When you sign a contract with a cell phone company, you're not signing off on this kind of invasive data-gathering happening."

(Riptide called Carrier IQ for a response to Dolan's lawsuit. We haven't heard back, but if we do, we'll update the post.)

The firestorm set off by Eckhart's discovery has led to quick action. Sen. Al Franken has called for congressional inquiries, Federal Trade Commission investigators have opened a probe, and just yesterday Sprint announced it was turning off the firm's software on 26 million phones.

Dolan says millions in Florida likely had their data tracked with the software.

"Carrier's own marketing materials used to say they had 142 million people in their software," he says. "This case will affect a huge number of people."

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5 comments
Blackberry Spy
Blackberry Spy

Yes most of the government agencies, employers using such kind of monitoring software and monitoring application that spy each and every activity that we of their subordinaties, 

Yet not get any software and update from anywhere that tell us who is spying us and how can can keep ourself away such detective software. 

Chris
Chris

Instead of including a picture of a Windows Phone for this article, which none of their phones have the Carrier IQ program installed on it, why not use a picture an Android or Blackberry phone?  You know, something that was actually mentioned in this article.

VongMee
VongMee

Sounds to me like they may well be onto somethign dude.www.Total-Privacy dot US

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

"What if your smartphone has secretly tracked everything you've done for the past two years: every Google search, every website, every key stroke -- not to mention everywhere you've traveled? Sounds like a paranoid fantasy from Enemy of the State, but that's exactly what a secret bit of phone software made by a company called Carrier IQ seems to have done to millions of Blackberry, Nokia and Android phones."

I can see where this is going. Your employer follows you around too. How about your government, Your ISP for your home computer. Maybe this company is outsourced by the Federal government to follow you around as part of the Patriot Act ? And let's not forget anything internet related, Linked In, they want to know who you know, who your network is. Facebook, they want to know your friends, where and when you've been. Sue all of them all you want, doubt this goes anywhere beyond being a class action law suit so that lawyers get paid and the victims get rewarded chump change to buy a cup of coffee, maybe at Starbucks ?

Tim Elfrink
Tim Elfrink

I included that pic because HTC phones have Carrier IQ software, and that was a generic HTC device with a blurred out screen. You're right though, a blurred out screen running Android would've been better. 

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