UK phone brands deny invasive Carrier IQ use
1st Dec 2011 | 15:17
Washing hands of mass smartphone privacy fear
Mobile phone networks and manufacturers are rushing to deny that their handsets carry the Carrier IQ software that has spawned privacy fears.
It has emerged that the software, which is installed on a number of smartphones to monitor device performance and usage for mobile networks, has been tracking much more done on a handset than necessary, seemingly down to each individual keystroke.
Vodafone has taken to its forums to deny that Carrier IQ is used on its UK handsets.
When asked by a customer if Vodafone UK has any connection with or has ever used Carrier IQ, its community manager said, "I've looked into this and the answer seems to be a no. Take it as that for now, and if I find anything else out I'll update the thread, but I doubt I will.
"There's nothing anywhere to suggest that we ever have."
Worth noting at this point that Carrier IQ issued a press release in 2009 announcing a deal with Vodafone Portugal.
O2 told us, "O2 doesn't collect any information via Carrier IQ. This is a question for the handset suppliers."
When quizzed on whether O2 uses any diagnostic tools on phones, O2 replied: "Not that we know of. Our understanding is that the handset manufacturers might install it so that they can collect diagnostic data, but if they do it's not on our behalf and we don't have access to any of the data that may be collected."
TechRadar has contacted all the major UK phone networks and handset manufacturers to try and get a clearer picture of which are using Carrier IQ - at present it seems to be mainly a US issue.
We have also contacted Carrier IQ about the situation.
Traces of the software have been found on handsets from almost all major manufacturers, including Nokia, BlackBerry, iOS and Google handsets.
But if networks were quick to wash their hands of Carrier IQ, manufacturers are even less keen to be associated with the tracking software - little wonder after Apple's PR meltdown over location tracking concerns earlier this year.
Nokia, for one, was strenuously denies reports that Carrier IQ is installed on some handsets.
The Finns released a statement saying, "Nokia is aware of inaccurate reports which state that software from Carrier IQ has been found on Nokia devices. Carrier IQ does not ship products for any Nokia devices, so these reports are wrong."
RIM sent TechRadar the following statement concerning BlackBerry handsets:
"RIM is aware of a recent claim by a security researcher that an application called 'Carrier IQ' is installed on mobile devices from multiple vendors without the knowledge or consent of the device users.
"RIM does not pre-install the Carrier IQ app on BlackBerry smartphones or authorise its carrier partners to install the Carrier IQ app before sales or distribution.
"RIM also did not develop or commission the development of the Carrier IQ application, and has no involvement in the testing, promotion, or distribution of the app. RIM will continue to investigate reports and speculation related to Carrier IQ."
Although Google told us it has no comment on the reports, citing "extremely reliable sources" The Verge reports that neither the Google Nexus Android phones nor the original Motorola Xoom use Carrier IQ's tracking software.
That doesn't necessarily mean these handsets don't ever have Carrier IQ installed though; it seems that some carriers require manufacturers to include the software. As Android is open source, it can be added later but closed shops like iOS and Windows Phone may have had to leave a window open for the software's installation.
Carrier IQ featured as number nine in the Wall Street Journal's list of venture-backed companies to watch in 2011, claiming that "the software sits on 140 million devices worldwide".
The main thing that remains unclear at this point is exactly what data is being collected and who it's being sent to. We're continuing to investigate so stay tuned.
In the meantime, here's a video made by researcher Trevor Eckhart, who uncovered the dubious side to the software, showing just how far ranging the data collection can be.