On the face of it, there seems to be little to link the Shakespearian tragedy Othello and an unfolding scandal which claims an app is pre-installed on millions of smartphones and tablets tracking your every move.
However, as you no doubt know, in the Shakespearian epic, the title character famously wanted “ocular proof” of his wife’s infidelity. And, just as the Moorish general was given such proof, we have now been given proof that the app from Carrier IQ does indeed run on at least one handset, recording a lot more data than the company previously claimed.
The issue emerged when Android developer Trevor Eckhart revealed that the Carrier IQ software, which is loaded up at the kernel level on phones from the likes of HTC, Samsung, BlackBerry, Nokia and even Apple, creates detailed logs of everything that happens on a phone without user intervention or control. Indeed Carrier IQ themselves boast that its software is loaded onto 141m handset worldwide.
Eckhart, fearing that Carrier IQ would remove publicly-available training material relating to the software, mirrored it on his own site as well as revealing the scale of the information being collected. He then received a cease-and-desist letter (PDF) from Carrier IQ, ordering him to remove the material and rescind everything he previously said. the letter has since been taken take and an apology issued from the company.
Carrier IQ, on its own website, last week posted an open letter (PDF) regarding reports in the media, stating its software didn’t record such things as SMS messages, emails or browsing history.
And so to the “ocular proof.” Eckhart has posted a lengthy video on YouTube (below) of him showing exactly what the Carrier IQ software does. He uses a factory reset HTC Evo 3D to demonstrate the app, and shows that it will not show up in the Running Apps menu of the phone.
He then goes on to show that every single keystroke on the phone is recorded, along with SMS messages sent to the phone and indeed location data, which is then passed on to Carrier IQ.
Carrier IQ said in its statement that it delivers details on the performance of a device and its network. “The information gathered by Carrier IQ is done so for the exclusive use of that customer, and Carrier IQ does not sell personal subscriber information to third parties. The information derived from devices is encrypted and secured within our customer’s network or in our audited and customer-approved facilities.”
But just who is putting this hidden tracking app on our phones? The answer seems to be the manufacturers and networks. A source told The Verge that the Google Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus and the Motorola Xoom don’t have the Carrier IQ app installed, as each of these was launched in direct partnership with Google. This would suggest that the Android software does not come with Carrier IQ apps.
Nokia and US carrier Verizon have also issued statements categorically denying that the app was preinstalled on any of their devices.Back in April, iPhone and iPad users were up in arms when it was discovered that Apple was secretly tracking their movements. However references to Carrier IQ have also been found in the iOS code – though it is believed that the software may only be active when your iPhone is in diagnostic mode which is set to off as default.
It remains unclear whether Carrier IQ is operation in Europe but if it is, then it could pose a serious breach of the Data Protection laws.
Eckhart has just posted an APK which will allow you to check if the Carrier IQ app is installed on any Android device. There is also a paid version of the app to let you remove the software, but this has so far been causing a number of issues for users.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this story as it develops and bring you updates as we get them.
Source: The Verge
Update: Apple has now responded to the claims that it was supporting the Carrier IQ software, saying that it would no longer support it from now on, however it doesn't explain which current products will continue to support it. The statement said:
We stopped supporting CarrierIQ with iOS 5 in most of our products and will remove it completely in a future software update. With any diagnostic data sent to Apple, customers must actively opt-in to share this information, and if they do, the data is sent in an anonymous and encrypted form and does not include any personal information. We never recorded keystrokes, messages or any other personal information for diagnostic data and have no plans to ever do so.Via The Verge