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Carrier IQ: bug may send SMS messages, service still safe

updated 08:15 am EST, Tue December 13, 2011

Carrier IQ goes into depth on service

Carrier IQ went beyond its earlier explanations late Monday with a detailed white paper (below) discussing what it does. Among detailes, it mentioned that a "bug" might collect SMS messages by accident if they come in during either a call or a simultaneous data exchange. It stressed that the messages were part of deep signalling traffic and "not human readable."

"Carrier IQ does not decode or process any SMS messages that may have been embedded in the layer 3 signaling traffic collected in these instances," it said. "While the entire layer 3 signaling traffic that was captured was provided to the [carriers], either to their own data centers or to the servers hosted for them in Carrier IQ's data centers, the content of any encoded and embedded SMS is not shown or available to Carrier IQ, its [carrier] customers or any other party."

Those companies that were using the embedded version of the software, which in the US primarily includes Android phones from AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, have been told of the bug and given help in keeping the data from ever getting to their servers.

Carrier IQ mostly touched on familiar points, but revealed that it had talked directly to Trevor Eckhart, the developer who originally found details that triggered much of the current alarm. The firm continued to blame HTC for any locally accessible information, suggesting that standard Android log files were collecting GPS data, keystrokes, and messages because of "pre-production handset manufacturer software." The debug mode for developers had been left on, the report stated, and Carrier IQ wasn't using the Android log file for its data.

Talks were underway with carriers and phone builders to tighten the certification process and prevent the data from getting out.

The explanation, which includes a view of what Carrier IQ's customers can see, may help head off possible government investigations over the software. The SMS bug, and HTC's unusually detailed logging, may still create concerns by collecting private information in a potentially permanent way. To date, Carrier IQ is known ot be absent on iPhones using iOS 5 as well as any Verizon phones.

Understanding Carrier IQ Technology

What carriers typically see for customer info

By Electronista Staff


  1. que_ball

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2000


    Does not matter

    It does not matter what they collect, how nice they are about keeping the data, or how harmless you think it is.

    They should have notified customers that it was collecting data and required the user to give permission and opt in. When you start up the phone for the very first time out of the box it should be a part of the initial startup process asking for permission to collect usage statistics. Many software programs lately have asked me a similar question and I always have the option to uncheck that box and not report my "anonymous" usage statistics to the developer.

    If the phone asked a similar question when you turned it on and you could turn it off, disable it and uninstall the software or at least make it so it cannot function that would be much better.

    Hiding in the background, collecting data, using up valuable space, battery, and data plan resources of the phone is wrong.

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