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[liberationtech] Carrier IQ

Rebecca MacKinnon rebecca.mackinnon at gmail.com
Wed Nov 30 07:07:59 PST 2011


More perspective here:

http://www.androidcentral.com/carrier-iq-evil-we-agree-and-hate-we-did-it
Editorial: Carrier IQ -- the 'evil' we agree to and hate that we did it
 By Jerry Hildenbrand<http://www.androidcentral.com/author/jerry-hildenbrand>
 30 Nov 2011 12:00 am

Seems like every time you turn around you'll see corporations using sneaky
tricks to gain a competitive advantage over a different, yet equally sneaky
corporation.  That's usually how money is made by the people who are best
at making lots of it -- at the expense of others.  The cell phone industry
is no different, even though we wish it were.  Yes, I'm talking about Carrier
IQ<http://www.androidcentral.com/carrier-iq-withdraws-misguided-cease-and-desist-letter-apologizes-security-advocate-treve>,
and it's my turn to bitch.

Carrier IQ sells a stock client for
BlackBerry<http://crackberry.com/?utm_source=topbar&utm_medium=topbar&utm_campaign=mobilenations&utm_term=ac>,
Symbian, and Android.  There's strong evidence that  they also make client
software for other smartphone platforms, and even semi-smartphone
OS's<http://www.tipb.com/?utm_source=topbar&utm_medium=topbar&utm_campaign=mobilenations&utm_term=ac>like
Bada or BREW.  But they're only making it easy to get the same type of
data your carrier has been collecting about you since the minute you turned
your cell phone on.  *If they're collecting it in an insecure manner, which
has happened<http://www.androidcentral.com/htc-collecting-data-us-phones-htc-sense-storing-it-very-sloppy-way-security>,
that's bad on them, and they need to fix it -- pronto*. But they're not
doing it on their own. They're doing it at the behest of the manufacturer
and the carrier, who uses the data to determine how to make changes that
get you to spend more money when they offer you the latest shiny.  If 72
percent of the people use a certain feature, you can bet your last dollar
that more work goes into making that feature "better" so it's a stronger
selling point.  Carrier IQ, as a company, could care less what you do with
your smartphone, when you do it, or why.  All they do is make it easier for
the people you give your money to each month to see why you like your
phone.  I don't work for HTC or AT&T, but I'm sure easy data collection and
aggregation makes for a compelling sales pitch.

CIQ isn't doing anything it's not supposed to be doing, unless there's a
software bug in play.  The software was purposefully placed there in order
to track what you're doing in real time.  Apparently, it works pretty
well.  Some may argue that it's a rootkit, or a flaw of some sort, but to
the people using the product -- again, the carrier and manufacturer -- it's
a feature, one that they pay money to include.  Remember, you are not HTC's
(or Samsung, or LG, or RIM, etc.) customer -- companies like Verizon and
Sprint are, and all parties find the data that's collected pretty damn
useful, so they aren't likely to stop collecting it.

It could be argued that you don't have a choice in the matter. You bought
the phone. And while there might be (and usually is -- see the picture
above from a CIQ enabled HTC phone) some vague reference to the phone
collecting data about how you use it, you likely skipped over that section,
and it's not all that up-front about what's being collected or how it's
being done. But on the other hand, that's probably true about 90 percent of
what your phone's doing at any given time.  *It works exactly how it's
supposed to work.*  Getting mad about it after the fact isn't very
productive, and isn't going to solve the problem any time soon.

Vote with your wallet.  You have the option to say no to this sort of data
collection software, and that's done by not buying phones that use it.
Every major carrier in the world now carries one of those.

Yes, I think Carrier IQ is a bad thing, done by unscrupulous people so they
have more pennies to count.  But all the hate towards the company that
writes and sells the software is misguided.  They are only filling a need,
and if they stop someone else will step up to replace them.  Enough words
have been written about it, yet the solution for Android fans only needs
three:

Buy a Nexus.


On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM, Jesse Krembs <jessekrembs at gmail.com> wrote:

> I might have missed this, but does anyone know what the breakdown is for
> CIQ market penetration? Or in a another sense which carriers use it? Which
> phone are effected? What's the payload version and features by phone?
>
> Thanks.
>
> On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM, Eric King <eric at privacy.org> wrote:
>
>> On 30 Nov 2011, at 13:48, John Graham-Cumming wrote:
>>
>> >  My best guess is that they are not storing all your keystrokes etc. on
>> the servers (or even receiving them) and that this whole story will turn
>> into one about privacy policies and ability to disable their software.
>>
>> They said that it is not in real time (although technically it could be)
>> but depending on the service, they usually get around 200kb of data
>> including 'aggregated key presses' (their words) once a week. More is sent
>> if a call is dropped, or they want to drill down to a specific user etc.
>>
>> >  one about privacy policies and ability to disable their software.
>>
>> FWIW my scribbles tell me that they told me their opt-out rate is between
>> 5 - 30%.
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>
>
>
> --
> Jesse Krembs
> 802.233.7051
>
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-- 
Rebecca MacKinnon
Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation<http://newamerica.net/user/303>
Co-founder, Global Voices <http://globalvoicesonline.org/>
Author, Consent of the Networked <http://consentofthenetworked.com/>
Blog: RConversation.blogs.com
Twitter: @rmack <http://twitter.com/rmack>
Office: +1-202-596-3343
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