Published by LawTechie - December 5, 2011 - LawTechie

Last week the world learned of Carrier IQ, a software program residing in a majority of smartphones. It is purportedly a “diagnostic tool which gives network carriers and device manufacturers detailed information about the causes of dropped calls and other performance issues,” but which also seems to log key taps and other private info input into the smartphone.

Carrier IQ is apparently found on smartphones including Blackberrys, Android-powered handsets, and Nokia phones.

Here is what we have so far and the recent updates:

(1) Carrier IQ has managed to make itself seem particularly insidious by threatening to sue the programmer who outed the privacy glitch.

(2) Two potential class-action lawsuits against Carrier IQ were filed last week for allegedly violating federal wiretap laws.

(3) Wired.com confirms that Carrier IQ comes installed on millions of new phones and installing a new operating system is the only way to get rid of it.

(4) Senator Al Franken writes a letter to Carrier IQ demanding answers about its alleged privacy violations:

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… These actions may violate federal privacy laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This is potentially a very serious matter.

(5) Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson tweets, “To be 100% clear: Carrier IQ is *not* on #Verizon Wireless #VZW phones.”

Carrier IQ continues to deny the alleged privacy violations. Nevertheless, considering how quickly phone companies are moving to distance themselves from the software, it seems pretty clear that this latest privacy scandal has quite a bit of weight behind it. I’ll update as I learn more.

UPDATE

For those who arrived here thinking they were going to get an “update” to fix or remove the Carrier IQ root kit code, please visit blog.chpwn.com for the technical instructions. (Thanks to my colleague Paul Rubell for calling me out on my awkward post title.)

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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