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Carrier IQ explains code in detail, doesn't talk consent

updated 01:40 pm EST, Sat December 3, 2011

Carrier IQ gets technical but skips key issue

Carrier IQ marketing VP Andrew Coward in an interview late Friday went into much more detail on its smartphone monitoring process. He likened what was happening for The Register to a fishing boat looking only for bigger fish, where Carrier IQ's tracking was only keeping information that was directly relevant to the call and data checks. It did see the stream of messages and numbers, but it was only looking for specific one-time codes for sending troubleshooting information.

The design was inherently made in a way that the background tool couldn't scrape private information short of a program rewrite, the VP said. It could track the number of messages that went out, but not their contents. Carrier IQ runs in RAM and so doesn't have a permanent copy stored locally, regardless of the information.

Carriers' collection varied wildly in frequency but was limited. Some only focused on dropped calls once a week, while others could detect app launches daily. Most of the typical 200KB upload was cellular radio information that could pinpoint the connection circumstances behind a call drop.

While potentially defusing government investigations, the interview has left out questions of public awareness and consent. Android users aren't known to be directly told that Carrier IQ is running or to have the option of turning it off. So far, only iPhone users have had it off by default with the option of turning it off later; it's now inactive on iOS devices.

The interview also didn't explain the backing away by some phone makers and carriers. Some may just want to avoid the controversy, although HTC's explicit statement that it not only isn't the direct customer for Carrier IQ but was hoping to scrub the software suggests a discomfort with the tracking process.

by MacNN Staff



  1. mozart11

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The lies

    "Carrier IQ marketing VP Andrew Coward" - oh man could there be any more appropriate name - Coward?

    Hey Coward - your coverup is appalling. Your software is disgusting. You and communist China have so much in common - "It's for our own good"

    God - your name is sooooooo perfect.

  1. ryanjo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I feel so much better now

    Oh, I am so relieved. Carrier IQ has access to the entire stream of my messages and numbers, but it only only keeps the "information ... directly relevant to the call and data checks". Which is whatever THEY decide is relevant.

    I expect that the next announcement from VP Andrew Coward will be that millions of messages and numbers "directly relevant to call and data checks" have been stolen by hackers. But they will provide me with a one year subscription to a credit monitoring service, "as a courtesy" !

  1. tonton

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The software sends personal data, including message contents and call details. But the carriers and Carrier IQ only use "what is relevant", depending on carrier preference.

    Why the f* is the software even CAPABLE of sending the personal info? And we're supposed to take your word on what data is retained? Right. How about NOT.

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