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Carrier IQ, Big Brother's Hidden Tracker App, Must Be Stopped

Mobile phone carriers and manufacturers have been adamantly insisting that nothing on a mobile phone is logging or sending sensitive data without the consent of the user.
Janus Rose
New York, US
December 1, 2011, 5:00am

Ever since the issue came to a head with Apple's location tracking debacle earlier this year, mobile phone carriers and manufacturers have been adamantly insisting that nothing on a mobile phone is logging or sending sensitive data without the consent of the user. But over the past week, one young researcher seems to have pulled the rug out from under them by exposing software that logs and sends virtually every action taken on millions of devices.

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The software, Carrier IQ, is present on millions of new products across several platforms and manufacturers including Nokia, Blackberry and Android, running stealthily as a service that logs and captures activities on the device. Android developer Trevor Eckhart had begun publicly poking around in the software last week, and was soon met with legal threats from the software company after he declared it to be a 'rootkit,' a form of malware that installs and operates on a computer without the user's knowledge. The company even removed a technical manual that validated Eckhart's claims from their own website.

Following some legal backup from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Carrier IQ backed off and sent an apology for their previous threats. They still, however, maintained that their software does not log any sensitive data.

Eckhart's newest video (above) shows that this claim is just plain false. Not only does he catch the Carrier IQ software logging and sending the contents of text messages, he shows it recording individual key presses in a way strikingly similar to 'keylogger' malware, which exists in seriously shady areas of legality.

Worst of all, the software runs automatically and there's no way to stop it short of jailbreaking your phone with 3rd party firmware — a practice which, as we all know, voids your warranty.

With no privacy policy mentioning anything about these activities, Carrier IQ now potentially faces some serious legal trouble if it's determined that their data mining constitutes a form of illegal wiretapping. And considering so many manufacturers now include the software on their phones, tin foil hats may not be necessary to start hypothesizing that carriers were fully aware of it. (There is hope yet, as reports are already coming out discussing how to disable the software.)

With personal data becoming increasingly precious currency to the newest batch of rabid online marketers, it's unlikely that this is last we'll be hearing of large-scale unauthorized data collection. But with a snowballing mass of new Facebook-like Internet software offering free services in return for that new currency, can we really blame them for trying?

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