Your phone is secretly watching you

It’s called Carrier IQ and it’s a piece of secret software that has been installed on millions of phones. This software logs everything users do, from where they go online to what their texts say.

While this tool may seem like some plot to control and monitor the lives of millions of phone users, it’s not. According to the carriers, this program plays an important diagnostics role; it helps carriers to diagnose and troubleshoot their networks.

This app stayed under the radar for quite some time. It hit the spotlight recently as security concerns began to surface over the capabilities of the software.

Image by John Rumburg.

These concerns only managed to gain steam as Android developer, Trevor Eckhart, posted an analysis of the software’s data logs. Eckhart followed up these data log analyses with a 17 minute YouTube video demonstrating how the software tracked his every move and keystroke. As users discovered just how far the software pried into their private lives, an outcry spread across the Internet.

AT&T and Sprint both acknowledged they use Carrier IQ. T-Mobile has yet to comment on whether they do, but has been confirmed to use it by third party sources. Verizon is the only major carrier that said that they do not use Carrier IQ or any software like it on their phones. While Verizon said they do not use anything like Carrier IQ, their competitors say that it is not possible to maintain modern networks without using a similar program as a diagnostic tool.

Apple has informed CNN that some of their mobile devices do have Carrier IQ on board, but the latest version of iOS doesn’t support the software. Apple also states that in a forthcoming update, all iPads and iPhones will no longer have Carrier IQ.

The company that makes Carrier IQ has issued a statement in its defense. According to the statement, the software does not transmit or store any of the information. According to the company, the purpose of the software is to examine broad trends so that companies can better understand how users make use of their device and any possible bugs in the system.

While appearing nefarious in nature, Carrier IQ is mostly harmless. The program does lead to some serious security concerns. While it doesn’t transmit the vast majority of the data it collects, the program does store it for a limited amount of time on the device. If someone discovered a way to access that data, it could lead to millions of people’s privacy being violated with nothing more than a simple hack allowing access to all the personal data anyone could want.