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Carrier IQ: Should You Be Worried?

What is Carrier IQ?

Carrier IQ is software that comes pre-installed on certain handheld devices. It collects usage data that mobile operators and device manufactures analyze so they can make hardware, network and service improvements, according to Carrier IQ. It runs all the time and cannot be turned off, although it can be removed by unlocking the phone and gaining administrator access, which typically voids the warranty.

A 25-year-old systems administrator in Connecticut set off a media firestorm after discovering mysterious software on his Android that appeared to be recording his activities. Software maker Carrier IQ says the software is designed to give carriers usage and other stats so they can improve the network and service. But the researcher argues that the software represents a serious privacy threat because sensitive data is being logged without user permission.

[via CNet]

The purpose of a debug log is for software developers to see if anything is going wrong with an application. It stashes that information in the phone’s memory, which it remains stored until the device is powered down.  It’s unusual, however — and bad, security experts say — for an application to store so much data to the debug logger.

So, the question is.. should you care?  Yes.  You should be aware of anything that is collecting your potentially secure information, especially if its doing it without your knowledge.  Should you be worried?  Probably not.  It appears the general consensus is that yes, while Carrier IQ is surreptitiously collecting information regarding everything you do on your phone, at this time, it dosent appear to be doing anything with that information.  Other than collecting it into a log file, which is deleted whenever you power off your device.  For now.

Bottom line is, there’s nothing to freak out over as of yet, BUT I would definitely keep my eye on how this situation develops.   There’s a lot of finger pointing going on, and passing the buck.  Carrier IO themselves say they are surprised to find that their application is collecting all that information.  Phone manufacturers are shifting the blame to the wireless companies.  Some carriers are saying they had no choice; they had to include the software on the phones.  Others say they weren’t aware of it.  For example, Apple says its on the iPhones up to iOS v5, ATT admits that it is on their phones, Verizon claims they’ve never knowingly used it, etc.

It’s a blame frenzy.  It will be interesting to see how this settles out.  Geek Easy will keep you informed of the latest developments!  For those interested, here’s a link to a free app which will detect Carrier IQ on your Android device –> https://market.android.com/details?id=com.lookout.carrieriqdetector

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