Carriers Admit to Installing Hidden App

The cellphone spying saga is heating up.

On Friday, Rep. Ed Markey joined Sen. Al Franken in demanding answers from Carrier IQ, the company that has worked with mobile carriers to install a hidden application that has the ability to secretly track nearly everything users do — including the keys they press, the numbers they dial and the websites they visit — on more than 140 million cellphones. Researcher Trevor Eckhart uncovered the secret app.

Rep. Ed Markey has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Carrier IQ.

News about the issue has spread like wildfire, and every tech blog worth its salt is on the case. Here are a few updates that have come in since we first dug into this issue Thursday:

AT&T and Sprint have admitted to installing Carrier IQ’s software on their phones.

The Wall Street Journal’s tech blog AllThingsD spoke to Larry Lenhart and Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ’s CEO and VP of marketing, whose carefully scripted responses left a lot to be desired. “The software receives a huge amount of information from the operating system,” Lenhart said. “But just because it receives it doesn’t mean that it’s being used to gather intelligence about the user or passed along to the carrier.” In other words, Carrier IQ has the ability to track nearly everything you’re doing, but it doesn’t necessarily do anything with all that info. Why should we trust this company to do the right thing?
Also of interest is how Lenhart and Coward passed the buck on to the carriers. They’re essentially saying, “We just provide the tools to spy on you. The carriers decide how they want to use them.”

HTC (the maker of the phone that Eckhart used to expose Carrier IQ) claims it doesn’t receive data from Carrier IQ. Nevertheless, HTC and Samsung got hit with a lawsuit claiming that, as others have suggested, the software violates laws against wiretapping).

Free Press is continuing to press Congress and the Justice Department to investigate Carrier IQ.

People are tired of these unwarranted, unannounced intrusions into their online lives. As Sophos analyst Chester Wisniewski put it, “the community is becoming fed up with being spied upon, our personal lives and habits being invaded through secret programs and increasingly complicated and confusing privacy statements.”