Software logs users’ activities across millions of phones – researcher

1 Dec 2011

A developer has claimed the CarrierIQ software, which is installed in millions of mobile phones across numerous manufacturers, logs almost everything the user does on their smartphones.

In a video demonstrating the scale of the software, Trevor Eckhart found out that CarrierIQ logs almost all of the activities a person carries out on their smartphone without their knowledge. This includes what buttons are pressed, when phone numbers are dialled, when text messages are received and what each text reads. It can also read browser data, even when Eckhart used the HTTPS version of Google, which should hide searches from other parties.

The data is sent to CarrierIQ through both a mobile data connection and Wi-Fi, Eckhart claimed.

Eckhart also pointed out that the software did not require users to opt in. He said it was also difficult to remove from the device, as it couldn’t be deactivated unless the phone was rooted and the OS was replaced.

Eckhart discovered that the software is installed in most modern Android, BlackBerry and Nokia devices. The software may also be active on the iPhone, though possibly only when it’s in diagnostic mode and at a limited capacity. The Verge found the software was not on Android devices which were made in partnership with Google as a ‘pure Android experience’, such as all the Nexus smartphones and the Motorola Xoom.

9to5Google claims the software is installed by carriers and is out of the control of the operating system provider and the manufacturers.

Carrier IQ threatened legal action against Eckhart and said the software was only used for gathering information to improve the mobile experience, such as tracking when calls were dropped or when apps crashed.

However, Eckhart’s video shows that this software logs a surprising amount of information seemingly without asking the user’s permission. The issue is shocking the technology world, raising questions about the violation of privacy and the legalities of the software.