A researcher just discovered a hidden application that records what millions of people write, view and search for on their cellphones. It sends all of that data to a company no one’s ever heard of. And we have no idea what that company is doing with our information.1
Sounds like 1984. But it’s happening in 2011.
This week, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Ed Markey demanded answers from the company, Carrier IQ, and Franken called its technology “deeply troubling.” We now need a full investigation.2
Carrier IQ has worked with cellphone manufacturers and carriers to install its spying software on 141 million phones,3 including Androids and iPhones and possibly models made by BlackBerry, Nokia and other manufacturers.4
Trevor Eckhart exposed the privacy breach in a shocking video that shows how Carrier IQ secretly records actions that you take on your phone — numbers that you dial, letters that you press when texting or searching the Web, menu buttons that you push — and sends it all back to Carrier IQ headquarters.
There’s no way to turn any of this off without hacking your phone. And carriers neglected to inform the public that this software exists in the first place.
The fact that one company is secretly storing away the data of millions of cellphone users — without our knowledge, and with no way for us to opt out — is just incredible. You’d expect this sort of thing from the Chinese government — not from a company operating in the present-day U.S.
This is not only a privacy problem. It’s a democracy problem.
Cellphones have become the ultimate democracy devices. Activists from Cairo to New York City to Los Angeles have used their phones to broadcast images of pepper-spraying cops, handcuffed journalists and squares full of protesters. We must ensure that the most important movements of our time aren’t compromised by data spies with little regard for our free speech or privacy.
Law professor and former Department of Justice attorney Paul Ohm says that Carrier IQ’s snoopware “is very likely a federal wiretap,” which means that the company could be prosecuted for breaking federal law.5
“Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information,” Sen. Franken said. “ … Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer.”
We agree. Let’s get some answers.
1. David Kravets, “Researcher’s Video Shows Secret Software on Millions of Phones Logging Everything,” Wired, Nov. 29, 2011: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7555?akid=3106.9860530.W7Jucd&t=13
2. “Sen. Franken Demands Answers from Company Accused of Secretly Logging Location and Private Information of Millions of Smartphone Users,” Dec. 1, 2011: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7565?akid=3106.9860530.W7Jucd&t=15
3. Carrier IQ Wesite: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7592?akid=3106.9860530.W7Jucd&t=17
4. Sean Hollister, “Carrier IQ Tracking on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and More: The Story So Far,” the Verge, Nov. 30, 2011: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7593?akid=3106.9860530.W7Jucd&t=19
5. Andy Greenberg, “Phone ‘Rootkit’ Maker Carrier IQ May Have Violated Wiretap Law In Millions Of Cases,” Forbes, Nov. 30, 2011: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7567?akid=3106.9860530.W7Jucd&t=21