The news about Carrier IQ that’s been all over the Internet of late misses one critical factor: Logging everything that happens on a person's smartphone probably violates a variety of federal privacy and data protection regulations. If your Android phone is collecting the protected information that you send in e-mails, text messages or by other means, you could land in prison.
Fortunately, the Carrier IQ problem has only been demonstrated in HTC Android devices sold by Sprint, as researcher Trevor Eckhart pointed out in a YouTube video. Eckhart says he’s found the same software in other Android phones as well as in smartphones made by Nokia and in BlackBerrys. But his tests haven’t been exhaustive, so he isn’t saying the monitoring software exists in all Android phones.
In fact, when I examined a collection of smartphones looking for Carrier IQ, I couldn’t find it. The Verizon Android devices I checked according to Eckhart’s directions didn’t reveal it, and in any case Verizon explains what data gathering it does and provides an opt-out capability. I also couldn’t find it in the T-Mobile Android phones I checked, but one Samsung phone had what appeared to be a logging app with a similar capability, but unlike the Carrier IQ software, users could turn it off.
So where does this leave you? The Carrier IQ software clearly violates federal privacy protection regulations even if it doesn’t send all the information it collects along to the company or the carrier. So using one of those phones for protected information means you could end up in the slammer. Hope you look good in the orange jumpsuit.
But so far, the best evidence of Carrier IQ seems to be on Android phones from Sprint. If you have any of those, follow the steps in Eckhart’s video, and if Carrier IQ is there, don’t use the phone for anything involving protected data. Your best bet is to avoid Android phones, at least until Carrier IQ and Sprint provide some clarity. Meanwhile, BlackBerry phones seem to be free from this, as do Windows phones. iPhones come with Carrier ID’s monitoring software installed, but it’s easily disabled.
I should note that RIM has said emphatically it does not and would never permit the installation of Carrier IQ or anything like it. Carrier IQ claims it just collects performance data, although the Eckhart video clearly shows that the company isn’t being totally transparent.