Carrier IQ isn’t spyware as such. It does indeed collect and map geo-location and device (T-Mobile and other carriers in the US have confirmed the app is resident on some of their devices) specific data which includes SMS, MMS, search queries and a whole lot more from your smartphone. The main reason the media is saying Carrier IQ is spyware is to do with the way the application has been installed rather than what it is doing.
The Carrier IQ app is indeed hidden from prying eyes but for privacy advocates among us, we believe that everyone should have the right to know what data is being collected, transmitted and analyzed about our everyday ‘usage behaviour’.This is true to some extent. Phone data is collected by the carriers on a regular basis including SMS, MMS, search queries and more. It’s all in the name of ‘improving the service’. It’s when the data is sold to third-parties that we should all be wary. Given Carrier IQ has been found hidden away on devices and users’ were not aware (nor were users’ allowed to opt out) of what this app was doing is one of reasons this received so much media attention.
Check out my recent post on free mobile apps are not that free!
Had the carriers and mobile handset manfacturers allowed users’ to choose whether the data was collected then one doubts that this would have been issue. Why? Most apps collect user data, however we are all given an option to accept the app permission to access our device. How many users actually understand what the app they have just downloaded/installed collects and transmits? Probably not many, other than the techies and curious among us.
So far I’ve not found Carrier IQ on any devices/carriers here in the UK, but that’s not to say other software hasn’t been istalled by UK carriers to track our usage and more – in the name of ‘improving performance’. Our US cousins are more privacy aware than UK plc, so it comes as rather a surprise that Carrier IQ hasn’t sort to enter the UK market first. Maybe they have or maybe they will. I for one will be checking with my carrier and RIM (I use a 9900) and if I do find Carrier IQ on my device I will find some way to remove it. I suspect the Carrier IQ story will unfold considerably in the coming weeks.
Safe surfing folks!