Carrier IQ speaks out: Points finger at networks, customers

Summary:In a clarified statement, Carrier IQ all but blames the networks and the unwitting customers for accepting the terms and conditions for using the tracking software-laden devices.

In a bid to "clarify misinformation" on the functionality of the Carrier IQ software, the company has updated its statement issued last month to claw back the damning reports that were filed this week.

In the statement it says:

"[Our] software does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video. For example, we understand whether an SMS was sent accurately, but do not record or transmit the content of the SMS. We know which applications are draining your battery, but do not capture the screen".

It continues:

"As a condition of its contracts with Operators, CIQ operates exclusively within that framework and under the laws of the applicable jurisdiction. The data we gather is transmitted over an encrypted channel and secured within our customers’ networks or in our audited and customer-approved facilities".

Though it does not answer many of the questions posed by the media, at least on the upside the data is encrypted when sent back to headquarters.

In regards to earlier reports that Carrier IQ alleging that the company violated wiretap laws, it "vigorously disagrees" with such assertions.

But in an apparent act of self defence, the company points the fingers at the cell networks and the customers themselves for 'using' the service in the first place; in a bid to deflect harm away from the company:

"We are deployed by leading Operators to monitor and analyze the performance of their services and mobile devices to ensure the system (network and handsets) works to optimal efficiency".

"Carrier IQ acts as an agent for the Operators. Each implementation is different and the diagnostic information actually gathered is determined by our customers – the mobile Operators. Carrier IQ does not gather any other data from devices".

Adding more fuel to the fire, it makes attempts to justify its role in the cellular industry:

"Our software allows Operators to figure out why problems are occurring, why calls are dropped, and how to extend the life of the battery. When a user calls to complain about a problem, our software helps Operators’ customer service more quickly identify the specific issue with the phone".

AllThings D report:

"While CIQ might “listen*” to a smartphone’s keyboard, it’s listening for very specific information. Company executives insist it doesn’t log or understand keystrokes. It’s simply looking for numeric sequences that trigger a diagnostic cue within the software. If it hears that cue, it transmits diagnostics to the carrier".

It is no the first time that the U.S. government has issued a secret, warrantless court order for data before, using the controversial Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Speaking to Andrew Coward, Carrier IQ's vice-president of marketing, AllThingsD hit the nail on the head. It's the carriers that are to 'blame', and the customers for accepting the terms of conditions that seemingly authorise the use of such diagnostic tools.

Granted, the carriers dictate the contract with its customers, so there is a fair amount of blame to be thrown at the carriers for snapping up licenses to the software service. It's the mobile networks that also dictate how long the data is stored, rather than legislative agenda.

Storm in a teacup, or is the teacup the size of New York City? At the moment it's cat and mouse between the company that tracks mobile users, and the carriers that authorise the tracking.

I feel like I've walked onto the set of one of the Bourne Trilogy films.

Related:

Topics: Mobility, Government, Government : US, Hardware

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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