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Federal authorities open Carrier IQ investigation into phone tracking

U.S. federal authorities, including the FTC and the FCC, are investigating Carrier IQ to see whether consumer rights or privacy was invaded.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into allegations that Carrier IQ, the mobile intelligence software found in around 150 million cell phones, collected information without the explicit knowledge of users.

The Washington Post reports that Carrier IQ executives also met with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after a meeting yesterday with the FTC.

"We are complying with all investigations at this time as we have nothing to hide", said a Carrier IQ spokesperson, adding that the company had been completely transparent through this process.

While an FTC spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the claims, a Carrier IQ spokesperson said that it was cooperating with federal investigators.

Carrier IQ's chief executive Larry Lenhart, and senior vice president for marketing Andrew Coward met with federal regulators at the FTC and FCC. Some congressional staffers were also spoken to, according to the report.

The controversy began after a security researcher Trevor Eckhart found that the software embedded deep within many smartphones records a vast array of data, including some personal information and key-stroke information.

While many were sceptical of the discovery, others came to the defence of the software, saying that it certain facts were misreported. The software's ability to record text messaging data for example has been a contentious topic.

It was later discovered that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile had used the software, but claimed that it did not record nor retain personal data pertaining to the user.

Nokia, Microsoft, and Research in Motion denied that its handsets contained the software. Google's chairman Eric Schmidt said last week that Carrier IQ was a 'keylogger' and that the search giant has no connection to the company.

HTC and Samsung were found to use the software. While Apple said that iOS 5 did not contain the software, older versions of its mobile operating system did. Apple said that it would remove the software in a future fix.

Carrier IQ admitted this week that some text messaging data was was recorded, though in an encrypted format. The company continues to claim that the software is not designed to infringe privacy or violate the rights of the individual, more to give software makers and cell networks more detailed analysis of when things go wrong.

Also this week, an FBI freedom of information request sparked concern that Carrier IQ was being used by domestic law enforcement, as a surveillance or intelligence gathering technology.

Under U.S. law, it is entirely possible that law enforcement acquired Carrier IQ data, but this may not be under a request to the company. Carrier IQ said that it would "refer them to the network operators". The company also said that it was unaware of any such requests to date.

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