Monday, December 5, 2011

Latest Carrier IQ Revelations: Franken Steps Up, 141 Million "Products" Have Code

This story is moving fast so I want to get you the latest news regarding the revelations that a secret code (Carrier IQ) was discovered that allows your smart phone (and who knows what else) to not only be tracked at all times, but in fact, every key stroke made is monitored and stored – including the content of text messages. And perhaps most incredible, the ability to opt-out, let alone opt-in, of this kind of “super surveillance” was not made available, as the fact that this code even existed, or was being utilized, wasn’t even shared or made known to the consumer.

Now we discover that since the Carrier IQ story broke last week, we’ve learned that the company’s spying technology is present on 141 million phones, including Androids and iPhones and possibly models made by BlackBerry, Nokia and other manufacturers.

As I touched on last post, this data collected by Carrier IQ represents a virtual treasure trove of information for those seeking to access it, particularly advertisers and the government. And we know how willing the telecom industry was to give up such private information to the government in the past, just as we know how the government used the Patriot Act, not to track and catch terrorists, but rather, to target peace protesters (think Occupy) and suspected drug users/dealers.

But government desire to access this data aside, what about the likelihood that a corporate entity is tracking/recording EVERYTHING you do (i.e. where you shop, when you shop, while you shop, what you search for on the internet, who you talk and text, and what you say and write), then turning that information into a detailed digital profile (98% of Google's profits come from advertising) that they can then sell – for huge profits - to third party advertisers so they can market their products to you more effectively??? 

Thankfully it didn’t take long for privacy stalwart, Senator Al Franken, to demand answers, stating, “Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information. The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and possibly transmitted is deeply troubling. This news underscores the need for Congress to act swiftly to protect the location information and private, sensitive information of consumers. But right now, Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer.” 

In his letter to Carrier IQ President and CEO Larry Lenhart, he writes, “I am very concerned by recent reports that your company’s software—pre-installed on smartphones used by millions of Americans—is logging and may be transmitting extraordinarily sensitive information from consumers’ phones, including:

•           when they turn their phones on;
•           when they turn their phones off;
•           the phone numbers they dial;
•           the contents of text messages they receive;
•           the URLs of the websites they visit;
•           the contents of their online search queries—even when those searches are encrypted; and
•           the location of the customer using the smartphone—even when the customer has expressly denied permission for an app that is currently running to access his or her location.

It appears that this software runs automatically every time you turn your phone on.  It also appears that an average user would have no way to know that this software is running—and that when that user finds out, he or she will have no reasonable means to remove or stop it. 

He goes on to ask a series of pointed questions in which he demands answers by December 14th, including (among many), “Is that data transmitted to Carrier IQ?  Is it transmitted to smartphone manufacturers, operating system providers, or carriers?  Is it transmitted to any other third parties? If Carrier IQ receives this data, does it subsequently share it with third parties? With whom does it share this data?  What data is shared?”

Read the whole list of questions...impressive...disturbing. So let's all mark our I'm eagerly awaiting answers to them.

As I also pointed out last post, these revelations reaffirm the need for an opt-in, Do-Not-Track mechanism available to all consumers, whether online or using something like a smart phone. I would also encourage readers to sign and send the Free Press's action alert: “Tell Congress and the Department of Justice: My mobile phone is mine, and I have the right to be free from being spied on. “    

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