In late 2011, the smartphone software maker Carrier IQ found its name in the headlines due to concerns about some of its software’s capabilities. In November, a researcher named Trevor Echkart, who does not work for Carrier IQ, posted a video online showing him using the company’s software to monitor keystrokes, text messages, and Internet searches. Eckhart echoed concerns that Carrier IQ might be monitoring customers’ private smartphone data by developing this ability within their applications.
In response, the company issued a ceast-and-desist order to Eckhart and filed a lawsuit, alleging that the 25-year-old had violated the company’s copyright by posting the information online and that he had made “unsubstantiated allegations” against the software maker by claiming that Carrier IQ could be keeping tabs on private data. Two days later, however, Carrier IQ withdrew the ceast-and-desist order and issued an apology to Eckhart.
Despite the company’s backtrack on its actions against Eckhart, Carrier IQ is still defending its applications. The VP of Marketing, Andrew Coward, said “What is true is that there’s a huge amount of information available to us on the device. But capturing keystrokes and messages, email, audio, and video is not what we do, and we’ve been absolutely adamant that we don’t do these things.”
After learning of these concerns, both Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey and Minnesota Senator Al Franken got involved in the debate, requesting the FTC to launch an investigation and sending a letter to Carrier IQ demanding to know about its business practices. Two class-action lawsuits have also been filed against the company, as well as Samsung and HTC, smartphone manufacturers that use the software. Most of the large smartphone carriers, including Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T, also use Carrier IQ software on their devices.
Image c/o: Frederick Md Publicity
If you’re a cell phone owner (and who isn’t), you may be weighing whether getting a smartphone is a good idea or not. There’s no doubt that these devices are extremely convenient, useful, and downright fun to use. And it doesn’t hurt that they look so cool either. However, smartphone owners are among the most monitored people in the world, whether they realize it or not. As the extensive tentacles of cell phone providers, applications, and social media websites grow, more and more smartphone owners are trading privacy for technology.
One of the main ways that smartphone owners are tracked is within the phone itself. If you turn on the wi-fi option on your phone, you’re able to connect to other wireless networks in your area. This may make your web browsing and communications quicker, but you may also be broadcasting your location to mobile phone providers around the world. GPS tracking applications are another way that smartphone owners are monitored. These apps use your physical location to determine where you are and then make recommendations or suggestions as to what ads are relevant to you. You might think that these apps don’t affect you, but several of the extremely popular smartphone apps such as FourSquare, Facebook, and Yelp use GPS software to establish your location and allow you to “check in” or provide reviews of certain establishments.
As some technology writers believe, these programs are incredibly intrusive, but incredibly entertaining as well. And most smartphone owners are more than willing to give up some of their user privacy for the experience of using one of these devices As Gizmodo writer Sam Biddle put it, “That line of creepiness is there, but it’s eroding quickly because, frankly, we are just getting used to it.”
Image c/o: digitpedia