updated 07:40 pm EST, Thu December 1, 2011
Carrier IQ and Google decline responsibility
Carrier IQ and Google together tried to push the broader direction of the Carrier IQ investigation towards the carriers themselves. In a new letter, Senator Al Franken said he was now asking AT&T, HTC, Samsung, and Sprint about what information they were collecting with Carrier IQ. While Franken didn't absolve Carrier IQ, he wanted to include the carrier and phone makers as they "subsequently modified and actually installed" its software, the company told him.
"Consumers need to know that their privacy rights aren't being violated by the companies they trust with their sensitive information," the senator said. "While I understand and acknowledge the legitimate need for diagnostics software on smartphones, the data that Carrier IQ’s software appears to be logging is alarming. I want to hear from these companies exactly why they feel the need to install this software on their devices and what they’re doing with the information they’re gathering."
The four new firms had until December 14, the same day as Carrier IQ itself, to respond.
Google, meanwhile, tried to take itself out of the equation entirely. The company claimed that the nature of the OS meant it had no responsibility for what others did with the platform. "Android is an open source effort and we do not control how carriers or OEMs customize their devices," it said in a statement.
While it would be difficult for Google to take charge of what's installed on phones without changing philosophy, the hands-off approach is partly contradicted by Google's own licensing policy. The free licenses for devices are tiered in ways that come with certain requirements to get official Google software, showing that Google has some control over what apps are allowed on a commercial device.
To date, the Android devices known for certain to go without Carrier IQ are those for which Google has complete control over the software, such as the Galaxy Nexus, and devices from Verizon. The iPhone, Windows Phone, and possibly some BlackBerry devices are also without, in part because Apple, Microsoft, and RIM all have more explicit control of what happens.