updated 04:15 am EST, Fri December 16, 2011
Telcos give answers, but they raise more questions
Following a formal petition from Senator Al Franken to handset makers and carriers in early December regarding their use of the Carrier IQ tracking app, AT&T, HTC, Samsung and Sprint have all submitted responses. Franken had written to the companies concerned that the Carrier IQ software pre-loaded on certain phones was a threat to user privacy. Although each party offered up a range of responses to the 13 questions Franken had asked, Franken still had a number of concerns arising out of the information he was provided.
AT&T's response (pdf) said that its use of the Carrier IQ software is primarily designed so that it can "collect diagnostic information about its network." The company also listed for the first time all the handsets in its lineup that carries the tracking app. These include the Pantech Pursuit II, Pantech Breeze 3, Pantech P5000, Pantech Pocket, Sierra Wireless Shockwave, LG Thrill, ZTE Avail, ZTE Z331, Xperia Play, Motorola Atrix 2, and the Motorola Bravo. For its part, it currently has 575,000 devices currently sending data using Carrier IQ out of 900,000 with the app installed on it.
Sprint's response (pdf) revealed that it as many as 26 million devices running Carrier IQ. Sprint said that data from the phones was not necessarily being sent in real time, but sent in packets only when the network sent a request to handsets. This amounted to about 1.3 million devices sending data back to Sprint at any one time. Sprint, however, did not list the specific handsets where the app was in use, but said that devices from Audiovox, Franklin, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Novatel, Palmone, Samsung, Sanyo, and Sierra Wireless carry the software.
In Samsung's statement (pdf) the company strictly denied that it received any data back from the Carrier IQ app and said that it was only present on its handsets for the carriers. It also listed feature phones that carry the app alongside its smartphones which carry the app. It said that up to 25 million of its phones carry the app in the US including the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, Epic 4G, Galaxy Tab 3G for Sprint, Transform Ultra, Conquer 4G, Replenish, Galaxy Prevail on Boost Mobile, Transform, Intercept, and the Moment.
HTC's statement (pdf) said that it "has not received any reports of unauthorized access to system log files and has no reason to believe this has occurred," on its devices. Further, the company is "actively investigating...and exploring ways to mitigate potential risks to consumers." Like Samsung, HTC shifted the blame to the carriers and said that it did not receive data from the app. HTC phones currently actively sending data collected by the app include the Snap, Touch Pro 2, Hero, Evo 4G, Evo Shift 4G, Evo 3D, Evo Design, the Vivid and the Amaze.
For his part, Senator Franken remained concerned after reading the statements. Still troubled by the matter, Franken said "The average user of any device equipped with Carrier IQ software has no way of knowing that this software is running, what information it is getting, and who it is giving it to-and that's a problem." Although not stating that he had more questions, it is likely that Franken will continue to pursue the matter until he is satisfied that the public is safe from being tracked without explicit permission being asked and given. [via The Verge]